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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

PC Gamer: Spelunky And The Robot Apocalypse

The issue of PC Gamer out today – which I’m pleased to report you can now buy anywhere in the world with cheap or free postage – has a six page feature about Spelunky in it, by me.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for months: the game possessed me, and no matter how many pieces I read on it I’m never happy that its appeal has been conveyed. I always feel if I’d read this stuff without playing the game, I’d have no inkling of the hilarious, ridiculous and terrifying situations it gets you into on a regular basis. My stab at this, as usual, was to just write some of them down.

Thanks to Deputy Art Ed Amie Causton and Spelunky’s level editor, we put together one of my favourite opening spreads:

spelunky feature thumbnail

It’s spliced with some great quotes creator Derek Yu gave me when I interviewed him, as well as the story of my obsessive search for Spelunky’s deepest secret: the lost City of Gold. It took me over a thousand attempts to find it, and stepping into that low-res treasure trove is one of the most spine-tingling moments of my gaming life. The opening to this feature is what I wrote about it minutes later.

It doesn’t feature a robot apocalypse, though. That’s in a report Rich and I did about a match of Supreme Commander 2:

supreme commander 2 thumbnail

It ends in with a bizarre twist that took us both by surprise, one I’ve never even heard of happening in this type of match before.

The other thing I want to highlight here is that Chris Livingston, who once blogged about what it’s like to play Oblivion as an ordinary citizen, writes a great mini spin-off to that in our Now Playing section this issue. In it, he attempts to be completely law-abiding in Grand Theft Auto IV. I am not prepared to confirm at this time whether or not hijinks ensue.

More on the issue here.

Jazmeister: I seriously fucking love this issue.

Graham: I wrote basically nothing this month. ;(

Kiwi Dave: Oh thank God! My nation's newsagents only stock the US edition. It's been two long years since I read a print written in the Queen's english...

Lack_26: I got this last Saturday, I was a very happy man. Been next to my bed ever since, also I've had similar experiences in Rome TW to what you had in your article.

[Spoilers for article]Except the two of us were allies, both shouting orders to each other's non-existent soldiers and being confused by the others requests.[/Spoilers]

Jason L: PCGUK for not-twenty-bucks-an-issue? I am there.

Dante: I've never even tried Spelunky, despite all the glowing praise. Mostly because said praise seems to amount to a list of the things I least like about games.

Jackrabbit: Oh Jesus, don't link LiO. I make such an idiot of myself.

Actually, I seem to do that everywhere. You'd think I'd have learned by now.

nabeel: Really awesome that you devoted a whole feature to Spelunky, I really love the game.

Joe!: Is PCG still really expensive?

Tom Francis: It's about this http://www.myfavouri... ...=webgrshop much.

EGTF: So are yours and Rich's battle reports going to become a regular thing now? I'm really enjoying them, I've missed BRs since the days of Tom Vs Bruce.

DanPryce: Issue 211's one of my favourite in a while. Can't wait for the podcat!

DanPryce: Rather, it IS my favourite issue in a while. I hate subconciously aborting a sentence in the middle and that's exactly what's wrong with kids these days - no idea how to ragequit with grace.

ZomBuster: I like your SP SupCom strategy, although personally I prefer to disable the game ender weapons and just spam a bazillion units at the enemy.

Pod!: I subscribed to PCG a few weeks back. Obviously "too late" to get this issue.

BAH. WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY. Now I must MANUALLY buy a copy?! What kind of poorper does this?!

Jazmeister: You could always hire me to buy it and post it to you. Of course, I'd need to hire someone else to do it.

Inium: Ah, Spelunky. After more deaths than I care to mention, I beat it for the first time this week. City of Gold's the next step, though I'm sure I'll go through another several hundred whip-toting adventurers before I get there. For a free game, it's beautifully put together, simple, but with depth, and tremendously fun to play. Nice to see it get some press.

Jazmeister: There are actually members of the indie community who are sick of the press it's getting: http://www.formsprin... .../162711345
Weird, right?

Jackrabbit: I never really 'got' Spelunky. It's probably because I suck at it and die in the first level. From what I've heard, this is not a new thing.

Plumberduck: But that's the point! Everybody dies on the first level, because you don't know the physics, and you don't know how stuff works. The joy of Spelunky is the learning process. The turning point, for me, was when I stopped looking at Giant Spiders as "Oh crap run run run" and started looking at them as "Yay, free Bomb Paste!"

H: I would love to be able to get into Spelunky, I just found it a little too cantankerous and stubborn and unforgiving. I think it's going to be a bit like Dwarf Fortress for me, a game that everyone else plays and talks about in near-mythical tones but that I just don't get.

Having said that, I found the sidebar in that article reminded me of ZangbandTK which I'm now playing like a demon again; I'd forgotten all about it. Such good memories.

Jackrabbit: Well, considering how into DF I am, I'm very willing to keep going at Spelunky. The joy I got when I first learned how to play that game was a wonderful thing. It'd be nice to feel that way again.

DAve: That article was yours? It leapt out of that issue. I remember thinking "someone's had a lot of fun making this".

Spelunky: [...] Spelunky Image by Pentadact http://www.pentadact... ...#038;#8230; [...]

Jason L: I'd long accepted the word of most every critic I trust that Spelunky was excellent and important, but I'd never gotten around to actually running the executable ('1.2' portable) until about a month ago. Yeah. I've touched little else in the time since, and it's just a masterpiece. I'm a couple hundred deaths in, with the tunnel to World 2 bought and a single visit so far to World 3.

That's the 'me too it is good' portion out of the way; the actual interesting thing occurred when I recently switched to gamepad from the keyboard controls for the sake of ergonomics. My pad was being a bit flaky and sending uncommanded ups, which kept committing me to starting from level 1 rather than taking the shortcut. I always played through rather than suiciding or quitting, because Spelunkying is a journey not a destination. Much to my surprise, twice out of about 10 occasions, half-playing, I suddenly found myself walking into World 2! C...Competence? What are you doing here? I don't truck with you! I think the last time I so starkly felt myself actually get better at a game was Grid Wars 2.

Also I just a few days ago discovered the jumping downward bomb throw, which is terrific for piranha ponds and convenient in many other situations. That makes me happy too.