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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

Old! Defibrillate This

I’m going to start pulling a few things out of the old James that seem to belong here. They’re a bit tucked away in that giganto-document: for those who never saw it, I manually wrote every post of my last site one after the other in a vast HTML file using a text editor, in a sort of misguided show of geek bravado. This one’s about Battlefield 2, and the little kill reports that tell you who killed who with what.


Locutus [SVD] mrbuzzard

Fuck. They’re swarming us. This beachhead strategic point looked safe, but they’re pouring in now and that guy just got it in the face. I sprint over to him and whip out the defibrillators. I’m a medic, you see.

“Clear!” Tzz.

He gets back up and I chuck him a medikit for good measure. “You’re gonna be okay buddy,” my character automatically says. “Thanks man, I owe you one,” his automatically replies. The tank we’re standing next to explodes.

mrbuzzard is no more.

Fuck! The concussion from the blast is so strong I can barely see, but as a medic you See Dead People regardless. I stagger over to his body and-

“Clear!” Tzz.

-shock some life into it. I don’t have time to patch him up before the ground explodes again and the troops pour in.

^^andy^^05 [AK-101] BlueBall
^^andy^^05 [AK-101] $uper_Gang$ta
hammi [T-90] tOMMy

Jesus Christ. I make a beeline for the bodies and an enemy troop rounds the sandbags ahead of me. I hit the deck and spray him with M4 fire, and he goes down before he can hit me.

Pentadact [M4] pHk

I get BlueBall-

“Clear!” Tzz.

-and tOMMy-

“Clear!” Tzz.

-fixed up, but $uper_Gang$ta fades away before I can get to him. God damn it, I hate it when I lose one. “You’ll be fine, get back to the fight.” I wish I could believe or stop myself saying that.

nofear [T-90] Squire
nofear [T-90] tOMMy

Shit! The tanks have rolled in, and I’m-

Mr0 [Artillery] mrbuzzard
Mr0 [Artillery] easydog
Mr0 [Artillery] Sigmax

Everything explodes. You hear it before you see it, but not by much. Then you can’t see anything at all, and pretty soon you can’t hear anything either. The dust-clouds a blast like that kicks up would blind you even if you weren’t in shock, and your ears just hum a monotonous song instead of reporting the outside world. When my senses return it’s to a beige world of loud noises. Through the smoke I can still make out the gleaming white trails of more artillery shells slamming down into us. I know with a grim certainty that almost everyone will die before I can get to them, and before I even make it to the first one I’m shot three times and hit the deck. I have no idea where the shots came from, or even if there’s any cover nearby – all I can see is the corpse bar on my singularly selfless HUD. Biting the dust seems to have saved me, and I’m on the mend all the time my medikit is out, but I’m not any closer to the bodies and I’m not going to hold this post on my own. I get up and immediately come face to face with the guy who shot me. I throw myself backwards over some sandbags and frantically hammer the number keys. My Beretta 9mm comes up and I shoot him three times in the face.

Pentadact [Beretta] ^^andy^^05

In retrospect he was probably more surprised to see me than I was him – it was a fair bet I was dead. More fire rains in, either a Support troop or a tank judging by the sheer fire rate. Shots thwack into the sand all around, and a final artillery explosion kills-

Mr0 [Artillery] BlueBall
Mr0 [Artillery] wpmike

-two more and-

Mr0 [Teamkills] th0ry

-ha! One of their own. I’m hit again but I’m not ducking this time. I pelt straight for the very patient body of my patient, dive through the smoke over an ammo box and land prone on top of him, immediately-

“Clear!” Tzz.

-defibrillating. He gets up and-

neurax [AK74U] easydog

God damn it! I shock him back to life. He’s learnt his lesson and stays down with me, but by this time I’ve lost everyone else for good. I chuck him a medikit and we scramble to the bunker by the flag.

easydog [M16A2] Bleak
easydog [M16A2] neurax

Pentadact [M4] Parliuus
easydog [M16A2] Monterto

He might be stupid but he’s a good shot. But there’s still the APC, and when its not scattering heavy fire at our little window on the world, it’s smashing up our empty vehicles with guided rockets. Worse, an enemy chopper I thought was just flying by has come around for another pass.

But something’s not right about it. I don’t know anything about anything, really, but consciously or otherwise most of the Western world now knows a Black Hawk when they see it. Black Hawks are ours. I focus on it and sure enough, friendly nametags pop up – green ones, in fact: my squad. Then, inevitably yet surprisingly, gloriously and loudly-

D4rkM4ster [Black Hawk] nofear
D4rkM4ster [Black Hawk] hammi
D4rkM4ster [Black Hawk] DanMM
D4rkM4ster [Black Hawk] Jage

It’s their turn to explode. The much-killed idiot and I sprint out to meet them. There’s still a body out here I can res, which I promptly-

“Clear!” Tzz.

-do. Half my squaddies throw themselves out of the chopper and parachute down to meet us, while the pilot takes it to a safer landing just outside the base.

It’s a fantastic sight, but I don’t have time to admire it – I’m seeing more Dead People. Scampering around the wreckage of the base rubbing my shock-pads together gleefully at the prospect of more life-saving fun, I suddenly discover where these fresh corpses are coming from. An enemy Spec Ops commando an inch from my face, silenced pistol raised to my neck. I don’t have time to think.

“Clear!” Tzz.

Pentadact [Shock Pads] FaR2SiNiSTeR


Shock Paddles


Lack_26: I remember being Medic, the fun-est class by miles. I used to Top the Score boards within minutes, and in the beginning, the medic's rifle was the best there was. I was unstoppable.

I went back last year, realised how unpleasant getting into the game was and I'm fairly sure that they nerfed the rifle.

Still, my copy of PCG finally arrived, hurrah.

Rei Onryou: Medic rules. Simple as. Defribulate this! Tzz.

Alex-chan!: I've never really played bf2, i played for like 10 minutes round a freinds but that wasnt enough to really give me a good idea about it. I have played bf2124 alot more though. still not enough to really be certain of it though, because i had so many problems with connection and my characters score was all screwed up, meaning i couldnt get any upgrades. however, from what i have played, i do think it's alright, but probably is hard to find a REALLY good game, as it's so dependant on teamwork.

Ludo: "I manually wrote every post of my last site one after the other in a vast HTML file using a text editor"


Unfortunately I missed out on Battlefield. For a long time I didn't do online shooters because of the often hostile communities that can populate this sort of game. Nowadays I'm better at games, and better at finding more pleasant communities to play with.

I'd love to have a go at Battlefield, might be worth waiting for the almost-certain-to-be-announced Battlefield 3, but until then which is the best one to start with?

Jason L: I'd go with the original Battlefield 1942 with the Desert Combat mod for an introduction. Obviously you get two games for the price of one - the slow, droppy, iron bomby WWII-flavoured original that's pretty playable against bots or with small numbers, and the faster, longer-range Desert Combat covering the modern angle. BF2 was developed in part by Kaos, the guys behind Desert Combat, and makes relatively few improvements over it at the cost of lots of bugs and restrictions - most notably the weapon unlocking bullshit and crippled co-op that have marked BF2 and 2142. And DC has ridiculous choppers that I love to fly; minigun Littlebird taxi <3, and a chopper botstomp on Kharkov or Battleaxe is nearly a complete videogame in its own right.

Co-op Berlin Desert Combat with the bots turned up to 10-1 is essentially Left 4 Dead but years earlier. 'Oh shi-' 'Over th-' 'BRDM six o'clock!' 'Down down!' 'Hummvee inbound five seconds stay there guys.' 'Get behind it!' 'I've got ammo, I'll spray, run for the point! GogogodiveYes! Stay down!' 'I'll block them off around the corner!' 'Grenades, guys, spam grenades!' 'Capture in 4...3...' 'Nine o'clock swarm!' '1...CAPTURED! Hold it!' 'Spawning there in three.' 'Gonna spawn west and cover the long street.' 'Leaving south alley, gonna grenade.' 'Let's leave east and flank, guys.' 'Right!'

Other introductions to Battlefield include Battlefield 1943, which is coming out with a couple of the most popular maps from 1942 in a modern engine and rejiggered classes, and Frontlines Fuel of War from Kaos. I haven't had a chance to touch my copy yet, but I hear the pitfalls are a bit of a reliance on drone tricks and RPG progression. OTOH, I hear it has a level where you're under time pressure to fight your way behind terrain that will shelter you from nuclear explosions that blast over the battlefield from various directions.

It's a shame that BF1942 Forgotten Heroes never grabbed the mainstream and completely breaks the bots, since some of their maps are just insane. There's one I played where teams of snipers overlooking a river cover the laborious, swimming, trench-warfare style advance of their assault teammates from tiny log-strewn island to tiny log-strewn island. The whole time I was in it, crawling around behind logs and hillocks, all I could think of was that quote from All Quiet on the Western Front where our veteran laments the stupidity of new recruits who can't spot cover until it's a full eighteen inches deep. I saw another one, completely naval, where ship-launched scout biplanes duel with each other and AA to spot the enemy fleet so their big guns back home can dial in. Mad.

TooNu: Heh, thanks for pulling that up again.
I was in the top 100 snipers for the first year of BF2, right up at 98 and 101 for a few months before I just stopped playing because I could still hear the sound effects when I tried to sleep. Was a great game and is probably still pretty awesome to play, but I think, probably dated and full of arseholes??

Dolphin know who you are.

Alek: Man, BF2. I remember those days...

I liked in in its prime, but going back now it doesn't feel quite as satisfying as it used to. TF2 probably spoiled me on this.

One thing that bugs me is that it never feels like I kill anyone. The death animation doesn't feel right.

Dagda: I loved 2142, playing as an engineer- it feels like I've got a viable solution to almost any problem. Sure, I've only got an smg for infantry vs infantry encounters, but I can usually manage to outwit and outflank enemies when I'm not making a run for a handy turret or vehicle instead. Game options like drop pods really help keep the action fast-paced and interesting.

Peter Purcell: BF2...Those were the days..Nights...and sometimes the early mornings

spuzman00: And late-mornings... and middays... and afternoons...

Jimmy!: Loved it. =)

Cptn.Average: I know what you mean with the BF2/TF2 feeling. I think what decided it for me was when I got knife-killed in BF2142, from the front, while unloading into the guy with an assault rifle. Source engine physics would never have allowed the guy to come so close while being hit and a one-shot knife kill in a game where I'm FULLY ARMOURED (ie my head is fully enclosed)is pure BS.

Cptn.Average: Having said that I'd still recommend BF2 if you're looking to get into the series, just don't be too discouraged by the hardcore that still play. Having really experienced guys on your side really comes through thanks to the teamwork aspect of the game and they can usually keep you alive long enough to have a blast.

Jazmeister: Dagda said: "playing as an engineer- it feels like I've got a viable solution to almost any problem"

What about problems like "What is beauty?"

Ludo: For the engie in TF2 "Beauty is an undiscovered level 3 teleporter behind enemy lines."

Truth is his wrench.

Dante: Truth is that spies are everywhere. Predominantly sapping his sentry.

Chris Evans: Thanks for this Tom, finally given me the inspiration to reinstall the old timer and give it a blast :)

Had some great times with this in the past, hope I have some more soon.

Redhawk: That would fall under the purview of your conundrums of philosophy, Jazmeister.

Jazmeister: So really, it's just, you know. Practical problems.

Snuffy (the Evil): The Battlefield series is always good for some fun. Nothing beats a good romp on Midway as a medic. As for the game itself, it's fast, but not too fast. It looks good, but the system requirements are reasonable. It's moddable, and the mods are fun. It's intense, but not by too much.

Project Reality, on the other hand, turns the intensity up to 11. I'm sure you've tried it, it's a total blast. As much as I love BF2, I've had more memorable moments in PR.

I'm also glad they added widescreen support to the latest beta of the 1.5 patch. No more stretching! No CD check! Improved Vista support! In short, awesome.

Chris Evans: I can't wait for the full 1.5 patch to come out, dying for some decent widescreen support now i've started playing again :p

Agent 48: You were so much more agreeable back in the old days:

'You published The Cat In The fucking Hat! A game so utterly worthless it even let down the pathetic film!'

'I hear that's working out well for him. Like I care - I don't wish any of these people well in their future endeavours. They should all have stayed doing the same thing forever because I liked having them around. '