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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 Year Resolutions

Christmas is over, I’m home, and I have a bit of time before I go back to work. My resolution last year was to be more prolific – take on lots of different stuff, do it all, stop whining. In that spirit, I’m going to try to get a bunch of stuff done. I doubt I’ll manage it all, but here’s the plan.


Work on Gunpoint for two days straight
Making Scanno Domini in 48 hours was exciting and eye opening. The deadline not only sped progress, but forced brutal and useful decisions about the design. I want to do the same for my longer-term game Gunpoint, aiming to get it to the point where you can meaningfully complete a level using the game’s central mechanic by the end of the year.

Every hour of work you put in before that point might be a complete waste of time, so you have to get there as rapidly as possible. I’ll probably work on it on the 29th and 30th.

The intentionally misleading title of this place is starting to cause actual harm in world increasingly reliant on search ranking. I have to call it by my own name. I also want to make the design slightly cleaner and less busy, and implement infinite-scroll rather than those archaic ‘Older posts’ links. Might tweak the colours and add an archive if I have time.

Start ‘Notebook’
A new category or subsite on here for what I used to call philosophy, but which has evolved into increasingly practical advice given by myself to myself. I need to write the shit I figure out down so I don’t forget what little I’ve learned, and doing it publicly helps get it straight in your head.

Post: What Makes Games Good
One I’ve been tinkering with for too long. It’s about giving names to the different metrics on which great games succeed – the ones that really matter. Because they’re not ‘graphics’, ‘gameplay’ and ‘multiplayer’.

Post: What Games Are Bad At
Less of a priority, but I’ve often wanted to do a series on the things I think the industry is repeatedly fucking up. Most of my obsessions about games relate to what they normally get wrong, so explaining why and how might turn that into useful advice for making them better.

Tweak Scanno Domini
So much I could do to this from here, but to avoid letting it distract me from more important stuff, I’ll stick to the quality-of-life essentials. Snow and single-barreled weapons fire both need to be darker – they’re invisibly bright on some people’s screens. Bots still sometimes get stuck camping you, forcing a restart. I really should let you use the keyboard for movement if you want to. And I might either make the game a little easier, add an easy mode, or do something clever with the difficulty so that it ramps up more smoothly. Watching my dad play it was informative.

Joe!: Don't change the colour scheme too much.. I've grown used to this.

More amateur hour please... And perhaps some posts on classic, little-known games? (e.g. Oni?)

Lookin forward to some more philosophy, though.

DrugCrazed: Have a look at what Introversion Chris does: He calls it 2 week sprints, where he just focuses on one section of Subversion.

Also, setting deadlines is always good. As long as its reachable.

nine: END OF THE YEAR??!

Coded One: Aww... I like this color scheme...

JoeR: The "What Games Are Bad At" post sounds good! I am sick of games not letting you open doors.

LaZodiac: What makes games good certainly looks interesting. Especialy because, apparently, gameplay doesn't make a game good.

Then again, you are the professional reporter. So we shall see.

Crane: "Gameplay" is an extremely generic term. People will often oversimplify, and say "the gameplay is good", but there's more detail to it than that - if you played one of the recent Tomb Raider games, you might say the gameplay was good, but if you were more detailed in your analysis, you might point out that the platforming was great, but the shooting was lacklustre.

Similarly, "graphics" is far too vague. I played 'Call of Pripyat' recently, and although the models and some of the landscapes were quite average, some of the use of specular and bump maps created some really great effects - watching the rain running down a brick wall was one of the prettiest things I've yet seen in a game.

There are also, which I think Tom is driving at, a bunch of things that no-one really seems to know how to describe or discuss - most notably to me the feel/kinesthetics/weight/solidity/presence of a game: how satisfying it feels, whether you feel like your character is gliding, whether the guns feel meaty or not, that sort of thing.

LaZodiac: Oh, thats Crane! That explains it quite a bit. I also consider that stuff when I talk about gameplay, and I tend not to watch or read reviews, so I sorta expected everyone else to do it too XP

Ankr: I like the idea of 'what makes games good/bad'. I also really enjoyed your epic and hilarious galciv posts - perhaps one for the longer run, but would be great to see something similar again.

JoeR: I'm really big on the 'feel' of games too Crane. One of my favourite guns in any game was the Combine Pulse Rifle from Half Life 2. I just had such an incredible throaty booming roar when it fired, it looked massive, and when you pulled that trigger you just knew that this was a serious piece of heavy metal.

Very few games have truly captured that same tactile feeling for me, that feeling of physicality that makes you wince when under fire, or turn up your speakers to really hear the tinkle of a shell casing hitting the floor.

I tend to look for things like this in games much more now than I do ultra high resolution specular gloss bump mapping!