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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

Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

I’m so amazingly goddamn rich. A string of gold-studded and jewel-encrusted Mine levels led straight into the Jungle, where two levels in a row left a Bone Idol trivially close to the exit. I barely had to nudge them to get out $40,000 richer, long before the ghost they trigger showed up. And now I’ve found the Black Market.

It’s a network of shops where, if you haven’t angered any shopkeeps thus far, you can buy almost every item in the game, and one that’s available nowhere else: the Ankh. The Ankh gives you a second life, and costs $50,000. It’s hard to earn $50,000. I have $120,000.

Before I get it, I want all the other equipment I’ll need. Most of it’s on the middle floor, but there are enemies: two boomerang tribesmen watch over the entrance to the shops, and a snail blows acid bubbles up the ladder that could help me bypass them.

I buy a shotgun from the top floor, then drop down to blow all the tribesmen away in one shot. I miss. A boomerang knocks me out of the air, nailbitingly close to a fatal pitcher plant below, and onto the snail. The snail is crushed, but the tribesmen are wild: by the time I pick myself up, one has thrown himself to his death and the other has jumped into the shops. Now he prowls them slowly, looking for me.

This is tense. I’m dying to shoot him, but it’s madness to fire in the direction of a shopkeeper. I just have to tail him at a safe distance and buy the items I need as I pass them. I’m reasonably confident he won’t turn round – and even if he does, he dropped his boomerang outside.

There’s a boomerang on sale in this shop actually. The tribesman walks up to it. He picks it up.

For a split second, I am amused. He’s going to buy a new boomerang! Silly tribesman, you don’t own material wealth!

Then my internal simulation of Spelunky’s interacting systems kicks in, and I see the next few seconds flash before my eyes with pure horror.

I run.

I jump onto the ladder, scramble up, dive away from the top floor shops, duck behind a mound of earth and cling to the ground. Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Christ.

For a second, nothing happens.

Then the Black Market explodes.

All nine shopkeepers hurl themselves into the air and start firing their shotguns in random directions. They kill the tribesman. They kill two other tribesmen. They kill frogs, pitchers, snails. One kills the slave he was selling, another kills his own dog. Two of them throw themselves to their deaths in the fury. Four of them throw themselves into a pit, where their bursts of buckshot cut each other to ribbons.

What happened was: the Tribesman walked out of the shop. He walked out of the shop with the shopkeeper’s boomerang in his hand, and he walked out of the shop without paying for it.

Shopkeepers don’t know, much less understand, who stole from them or damaged their store. Any crime, of any kind, is cause for an indiscriminate rampage that kills everything in line of sight, and a lot more besides. When that happens in the Black Market, there’s a term for it. It’s the shopstorm.

When the blasts quiet down, I crawl slowly out of my hiding place and walk carefully through the empty shops, collecting everything for free.

I find one surviving shopkeeper hopping madly around the Ankh, bouncing on the bodies of the colleagues he’s killed. I throw one of the 35 sticky bombs I’ve shoplifted at him, and he detonates a second later. I take the Ankh and the heaps of gold the shopkeepers dropped.

In four levels’ time, I’ll use the climbing gloves I stole to cling to a wall in the ice caves, directly below a collapsing platform that will fall onto me and hit the jetpack I stole, causing it to explode and kill me, wasting the Ankh I stole. But all I’m thinking right now is wow, I’m still incredibly rich.

More ,

Andy Baio: And that's why Spelunky is my game of the year.

Johnkillzyou: Wow. You are incredibly rich. Not only in money, but in stories.

Phil Nelson: I love games that provide us with these kinds of stories.

theharribokid: what a great story

Juan Bello (PAMVllo: WOW You're really fucking rich! XD amazing story I would like to watch a footage, sad that there's no a one =(....BUT FUNNY AND GREAT STORY!

Retodon8: Being a classic Spelunky player (new version soon), that made me smile. :)

A Successful Spelunky Run, by Tom Francis: [...] Shopstorm. [...]

How Spelunky Creates Amazing Unexpected Situations | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: […] The arrow trap that shoots the croc man that causes him to telefrag you. Being caught mid-jump by a boomerang that juggles you towards a spike trap, leaving you stunned in front of it until it springs. Shopstorm. […]