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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

Game Of Thrones, The Shadow Line, The Killing, Running Wilde

Chris’s blog is reminding me I haven’t talked about what’s on in ages. Here’s what I’m watching and why.

Game of Thrones

Most of PC Gamer have devoured George R R Martin’s fantasy novels whole or in part – not me. My reading habits are based on identifying the shortest possible thing worth reading, reading half of it, then forgetting it exists. So I was extra glad to have the apparently awesome series turned into shiny pictures and shouty sounds for me.

It’s awesome. I was loving it even from the very slow first episode, before any characters establish themselves as particularly likeable. Now that it’s kicked off, the characters are actually more exciting than the action. It’s a series in which I can’t remember anyone’s name, but can describe who I’m talking about at work the next day in just a few words. Although in one case those words are “The guy who always sounds like he’s narrating a videogame intro” (the ex-slave trader).

Everyone had told me the books were brutal, which put me off, but I see the appeal now. It has just enough heart to make you genuinely care, and just enough guts to exploit it.

The Shadow Line

Intricate new BBC drama about the assassination of a drug lord and the two parties investigating it: the police and his former henchmen. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this to be good, but I wasn’t and it is. The deceased’s nephew plays unhinged with sociopathic ease, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (bad guy from Serenity) manages to make even an amnesia plotline darkly intriguing.

Tracking two parties pursuing the same leads, it doesn’t shy away from the repetition that naturally entails. Instead it uses it as a character profiling technique: three very different men all interrogate the same two associates of a missing man, and which one they each choose to call when they hear from him tells us everything we need to know about what they fear or care about most.

The Killing

A crime series that revolves entirely around one murder, based on a Danish series of the same name. I’m watching it partly out of curiosity about how well one investigation stretches over 13 hours of television, partly because it has the amazing Michelle Forbes in it, and partly because it rains a lot. Apparently that never stops feeling atmospheric.

I’ll tell you what doesn’t stretch well over 13 hours of television: a character subplot whereby the main detective is juuuust about to leave for California at all times, she’s just hanging around to chase this one last lead, then she’s going, definitely this time. That starts in episode one, which is not coincidentally the same moment it starts to feel false and ridiculous.

Running Wilde

Comedy by the creator of Arrested Development, starring Will Arnett (Gob) and occasionally Peter Serafinowicz. I’d heard little about it, and nothing positive except that The Onion didn’t think it was as unfunny as people were saying it was. Turns out it’s great. It has a lot of the same subtle wordplay and neat farces as Arrested Development – including a ridiculous number of sly references to that series – but actually makes me laugh more. It sticks more closely to its two main characters, which is good because one of them is Will Arnett.

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Lack 26: I'm really enjoying Game of Thrones, I don't think I've actually enjoyed TV this much in quite a while and it's certainly nice to see a 'fantasy' world treated with this level of respect (due to the books, I'm sure). The dwarf is an excellent character and very well acted, probably my favourite at the moment.

Although I've found that the ex-slave trader's voice has actually become the sound of my internal monologue, (mixed in with a bit of Robert Bathurst's voice from his reading of A Dream of Armageddon).

Tom Francis: Oh yeah, Peter Dinklage is amazing as Tyrion.

Rich: I didn't know that The Killing had been translated. I'm watching the Danish one at the moment, about half way through (it clocks in at twenty hours). I really liked the Swedish Wallander - let's hear it for the Scandinavian crime thriller massive.

Trying to not have spoilers here, but even the generality of my statements might not be enough if you're aching for everything to surprise.

In the first ten episodes, about eight hours have been taken up by investigations into people acting suspicious when questioned by the police about their whereabouts on the night of the murder, only to have it turn out that they were just doing something entirely innocent but they didn't want to tell anyone in case of the consequences - embarrassment apparently being less preferable than convictions for kidnap, sexual assault and murder. I didn't know Denmark had such strict societal rules.

Tom Francis: Hah. That's like the longest episode of Castle ever. If I was a cop, I'd start every interrogation with "Would you like to be convicted of murder, or the thing you were really doing on the night of the 16th?" All the red herrings would fess up and save time, and I'd know the real murderer because he'd have to really think about it.

Rei Onryou: I'd love to watch all of these, but I only have time for Archer. Please tell me you've seen it, Tom!

Bret: And now I'm remembering an old GK Chesterton Father Brown where a man nearly was framed for murder because he pretended to be his own manservant, saying he was out, to duck an interview with a reporter and keep reading a really good book.

And I'm also thinking of totally legal actions that I would prefer to be tried for murder than have as public knowledge. Not many, but they exist, especially if I was reasonably sure other evidence would clear me.

Lack 26: Ah yes, Archer, another brilliant show, between GoT and this I'm a very happy man (Slightly less happy now Campus has finished though).

It literally has me rolling around in hysterics half the time, unfortunately I can no longer talk to my own mother without saying "MOTHER!" in Archer's voice.

Anonymous: 'I would rather be framed than admit something shameful until the last minute' is every minute of every episode of every flavour of Law and Order. I know TropesAreNotBad, but in this case it's the largest of the many reasons to pay absolutely no attention to those shows.

Entropy: The best thing about Game of Thrones, for me at least though, is listening to all the non-book readers speculate. It's funny how wrong they usually are.