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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script

Maybe Back Up Your Google Stuff?

This tale of abruptly losing a Google account without explanation, via roBurky, made me realise I should be backing this stuff up. Not so much because “It happened to him, therefore it will happen to me!” Just because the story makes you realise how boned you’d be if Google did shut you out, and how absurd it is to have total faith they never could. In all probability someone hacked this guy’s account and did something bad without his knowledge, in which case it has nothing to do with anything he did.

If you try to explain how much stuff you’ve entrusted exclusively to Google, then replace the word ‘Google’ with any other company name, it starts to sound terrifyingly stupid.

Backing up is surprisingly easy, though. You can’t do it via that weird Data Liberation Front thing they keep shouting about – that’s just for, like, status updates and Picasa for some reason. But for mail and docs, the two things I care about, neither method is hard.


The simplest way to have a local copy of all your Gmail is to install a mail client like Thunderbird, which is free and quite pretty these days, and tell Gmail to let you download it with that. Click the cog in the top right, go to Mail settings > Forwarding > Enable POP for all mail.

If you go with Thunderbird, the next bit is weirdly easy. It asks for your e-mail address and password, and then figures out what all the POP and SMTP servers should be automatically. Last time I messed with that stuff, you had to actually make a phone call to find it out. I am old.

Then you just check mail, and you’ll have about 20,000 new messages. Any time you want to update this backup, fire up Thunderbird and check again.


Google now has an in-built way to back up all your documents. Right click any one of them, and sneak past the two battling context menus to find the Download option.

In there you’ll find an ‘all items’ tab at the top – click that and you can pick what formats you prefer for each document type, then click a big download button to receive them all in one big zip. Surprisingly it was only about 300MB for me (1,000 odd docs).

Digging through all this old stuff has reminded me that for a brief golden age, a group of us managed to introduce “Snakes on a Plane” as a general expression of nonchalance – a sort of “Whaddya gonna do?” As if to suggest that in a world where snakes can be encountered on planes, anything less troubling is trivial.

Person 1: I’m not even dressed yet.
Person 2: But you got home before me!
Person 1: Snakes on a Plane.

Marc: Turns out Thuderbird's default setting is to sort mail oldest first. I didn't know that when I read the first unread message in my inbox, an email from an ex-girlfriend of mine saying how nice it was to see me last friday night. A night I have no memory of. So thanks for that minor heart attack Tom.

On the upside I now have a decent email client. Goodbye Windows Live Mail!

Tuuvan: Thanks for the PSA, Tom.

One thing you didn't mention were contacts, which are extremely valuable (I know I use Google contacts almost exclusively). To backup those, click on "More Actions", select "Export", select the group of contacts you wish to save and the file format (I'd recommend Outlook CSV because it would be the easiest to access offline).

Dzamir: Or just go to this link:
And download all the data together as a zip file.

dr_demento: Actually, the Data Libaration Front website has this exact advice on it for getting your data off Gmail and Docs, as well as all the rest of your data. It's only the 'Google Takeout' all-in-one download which is limited to status updates, Picasa, contacts and profile data (which is what Dzamir's link is pointing to).

This twitlonger thing is a great warning against putting all your eggs in one basket, but if you're going to then Google is certainly the best basket - there aren't many that make taking your eggs out this easy.

Madness: Leaving your eggs in any basket except your own seems to be risky nowadays. Just banking doesn't look as safe as it once did.

Przybysz: The one problem I'm having with this Thunderbird program is that it's capping me out at 3499 inbox messages. That puts me around September of '09... Anyone else having this problem?

Przybysz: Well nevermind then, the problem resolved itself...

Morne: Lost all your Google files? Snakes on a Plane, man.