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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

Aaron Sorkin’s Next Show

Aaron Sorkin is the guy who wrote A Few Good Men, The West Wing seasons 1-4, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Social Network.

Graham: I’m reading the pilot script for Sorkin’s new show. I will send it to you, but as a preview, simply close your eyes and imagine that Aaron Sorkin was writing a TV show. Bingo! You now have all the contents of this script in your head.

Me: Wow, awesome. What’s it about? Before I read your response, I’m going to write a synopsis of what I think it’ll be like.

  1. The show has no main character but primarily revolves around two male professionals who are each exceptionally talented at their slightly different jobs, but slightly under-appreciated.
  2. One of them is in a problematic relationship with a strongly opinionated female character whose job brings them into contact and potentially conflict.
  3. Another conflict revolves around someone in a position of power imposing a different mindset or agenda on one or all of the main characters, hindering their ability to do their job the ‘right’ way.
  4. The pilot features one of the main characters in some kind of exceptional personal or professional crisis, one he cannot hide from the world, and the other characters give him stronger support than he expects or feels he deserves.
  5. At least once two people conduct a conversation by each elaborating on their own concerns without ever listening to the other person.
  6. One of them argues strongly for the ‘right’ way against his superiors, accepts his fate, then must argue the opposite side when relaying the news to the other characters.
  7. At the end of the episode, the fortunes of the character in crisis have changed and the formula for the rest of the series is established.

Graham: Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 are spot on. 5 doesn’t quite happen, but not far from it, 6 doesn’t happen but will in future episodes, 7 probably does happen but I haven’t finished reading it yet.

It’s called “More As The Story Develops”. It’s set behind the scenes at a cable news program. It’s partially inspired by Keith Olbermann. It stars Jeff Daniels as the brilliant but kind of assholish news pundit. The show-within-the-show is on a fictional network called UBS, which is the network from Network (and the network Studio 60 was on, until NBC picked up the pilot and changed the name to NBS).

Events happen, Jeff Daniels ends up in crisis – has been in crisis – and the person who comes to help him turns out to be a brilliant woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

It also stars a mixture of Dana from Sports Night and Jordan from Studio 60, Isaac from Sports Night, Natalie from Sports Night. Not the actors, just those characters. Also there’s a young guy who is kind of a cross between Jeremy from Sports Night and Sam from The West Wing.

But it’s on HBO, so sometimes people say “fuck”. That’s new.

Me, writing a blog post after reading the script: Yeah. It’s so unmistakably Sorkin, you almost wonder if it’s not Sorkin but a Sorkin stalker who’s devoted his life to perfectly mimicking every trope and character Sorkin has ever written.

Early on, I was thinking, “I know why this is funny, I know why it’s engaging me, I recognise all the Sorkin tricks and understand why they work.” It’s a rhythmic and always slightly absurd interplay between smart characters who are smart in different ways, and angry, exasperated or cynical about those differences. He can repeat that formula as much as he likes, I’m never going to stop enjoying it. These are my buttons, he has found them.

Towards the end, though, it becomes more than the offspring of Sports Night and Studio 60. As step 7. kicks in and starts to resolve step 4., Sorkin adds some basic stage directions about what the score should be doing. I’m not hearing the score, he doesn’t tell me what it would sound like, he just says what kind of mood it should reflect. And each time, it’s a perfect description of the mood I’m already starting to feel from the script.

Without even being played, the score is somehow reinforcing and boosting that escalating sense of excitement, and by the absolute climax of the action – which is an ordinary goddamn news report – I am tingling. It’s the emotional high of seeing characters you care about overcome obstacles to do important and difficult work incredibly well.

Unlike the smaller Sorkinisms, I know what’s happening but I don’t know how he’s doing it. As long as he can keep doing it, More Story is going to be great.


Octaeder: This could have just been a direct lift from any of the other shows in a new setting and I'd still be excited. I think I even persisted with Studio 60 longer than most.

If 5 doesn't happen at least once by the third episode though I'm taking it as a portent of the end of the world.

Chris: Wow, does it really star Jeff Daniels? That's a weird choice. I do not see him as Alpha Male at all.

Tom Francis: Yeah, I was imagining him as Matthew Perry.

Jason L: Also The American President.

Ronin08: I saw Sorkin speak recently at an event for the WGA. He said this: "I'm not going to make any friends here, but, The Social Network....I wrote it on one draft."

I've never heard a room GASP before. I didn't know that happened outside of movies.

lemon-lyman: You forgot the part where one of the main characters, usually the smartest one, is a writer and will give a short but incredibly eloquent soliloquy about how hard it is to be a writer. Afterwards, he will produce something brilliant which will form the climax of the show and everyone will tell him how brilliant he is.

SportsNight Lover: So Sorkin's gonna keep writin' SportsNight till he gets it right?

Wow, impressive. So the last episode of season 1 will be called, "What Kind of Day It's Been," Joshua Malina will show up, there will be a slew of Gilbert & Sullivan references, at some point someone will paraphrase Thomas Merton and go,
"'I don't always know what the right thing to do is, my Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please you pleases you."

Someone will be in the tall weeds
Someone will decide that, "ordinarily it takes hours for someone to realize I'm not quaified..."

Oooh, maybe he could throw back in the Three Dog Night songs and see if someone else still hasn't slept with someone in Spain because they've never been to Spain.

Yes, I'm looking forward to it!

The Newsroom, by Tom Francis: [...] leaked Aaron Sorkin script I wrote up a while back is now a show, called The Newsroom. It goes behind the scenes of a nightly news show [...]