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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


This post is slightly fetishistic about booze later on, which if you’re a recovering alcoholic might be kind of annoying.

I like alcohol. I don’t get drunk very often, probably once a month on average, but I drink with an enthusiasm and regularity that makes me very conscious of one possible way this could go. I could become like a chocoholic, but for booze.

So every now and then, I give it up for a month – just to check I still can. I’m three weeks into one of these sobriety benders right now, so I thought I’d report on how it’s going, and what I’ve concluded from it.

Week 1

Was so easy that my impulse was to cancel the whole thing. I think I forgot I was even doing it, I just didn’t happen to think about or consume booze that week. Point proven – I am not remotely addicted to alcohol, might as well call it off.

Luckily, one part of my brain is actually smart, and it treated this line of reasoning with the deep suspicion it deserves. If you’re so fine with this, rest of my brain, why don’t we just ride it out for three more weeks?

Well maybe we should!

Well let’s do that then!



Week 2

Also easy. I really don’t appear to have any cravings at all for the stuff, it’s just a thing that makes me feel nice if I do it.

The only strange thing about Week 2 is that, with an almost total certainty, I come to believe it is Week 4. An easy four weeks! No warning signs! Let’s break out the booze!

Wait, I’ve got how long left?

Week 3

Maybe it’s like the old saying about tobacco – you don’t live longer without it, it just seems longer. This is seeming like a long goddamn time. I’m not remotely tempted to actually cave, and I have no specific desire for any specific drink, I’m just intensely, weirdly conscious of time. It honestly feels like two months. I feel like I’ve left alcoholic life behind, completely forgotten about the stuff, entered a new lifestyle without it. And while it’s not causing me any discomfort to do so, I would judge that my previous life was a little merrier.

What I have learned

The break has made me analyse the way I drank, and when it finally does end, six subjective years from now, I’ll change some things. First, though, here are the alcohol-related experiences I do miss, and look forward to having again:

A pint of beer and a fish sandwich. This is a bizarre longing. I have had this maybe two or three times in my life. Beer is not generally my poison, and fish is not generally my food, but I remember this particular combination as vividly hearty and comforting.

Spiced rum and jazz. Something absurdly chilled, like In A Sentimental Mood. This used to be my reward for finishing my daily to-do list for Gunpoint, and the thing I miss is that feeling of utter tranquility. Sober, my brain is hyper – it fills downtime with new ideas and plans. A thick-bottomed glass of gold rum, cold but burning warm, tasting of vanilla and easter spices, seduces it into submission.

Gin and tonic with my dad and sister (my mum doesn’t drink). My dad would always make one of these for his cousin Sarah at family gatherings, and my sister decided to join in, and I am easily swayed, cocktailwards. Now it’s become a tradition, for the first drink any time we’re all at my parents’ place – Anna suggests it might be “aperitif o’clock”, dad fetches the tonic from an outside workshop, so it’s freezing, and I usually make them, so they’re strong.

Bad day cider. I don’t actually have bad days, since I write about videogames, but this doesn’t seem to detract from the profound relief of escaping the office where you work with your friends to end the week by drinking with your friends.

What I don’t miss, and what I won’t resume, is the habitual drink. I was drinking wine with most evening meals, and now that I’ve stopped, I don’t know what I was getting out of it. It was something to do, particularly while cooking, and it seemed obviously superior to any other accompaniment to a meal. But it had ceased to be special, and at that point I don’t think it’s worth it.

The real point of giving up alcohol occasionally is to catch stuff like that, in the hope that if I do, I’ll never have to give it up for good.

Josh: That is a surprisingly healthy viewpoint. Good job sir!

icouldbehero: This is a good idea...I should give it the old college try.

P.S. Have you played Frog Fractions? (http://twinbeardstud... ...-fractions) The game design is amazing.

CdrJameson: Just out of interest, do you have any tips for drinks with your evening meal instead?

There doesn't really seem to be anything that fits nicely in that niche of drink-you-can-nurse-for-ages.

I've tried:
- Tea (not good if it's a late dinner)
- Coffee (ha! HA! HA! HA!)
- Fruit/Mint tea (OK, but gets a bit monotonous)
- Water (OK, but I drink it all day in industrial quantities anyway)

craftworkgames: I used to drink a fair bit. I cut right down when I had kids but I know what your going through. Things get a lot easier when the people around you don't drink much either.

Crane: These days, I drink essentially on a daily basis - not very much, but very consistently. I like to have a glass of wine or two in the evening when I'm lying in bed reading or watching telly.

There was a period where I was slightly concerned about turning into an addict, but at one point, I spent a long time unemployed - and I quit drinking cold turkey. I simply couldn't afford it, so I didn't do it.

Now that I've got the money to spare, I've started drinking again, but I was relieved to find that it wasn't particularly difficult to stop when I needed to.

Dark_Lemon: A very candid post. And a very intriguing method of self reflection. I work as a doctor in A+E and live in a state of almost paranoia that I am using alcohol as a crutch and that I am one personal crisis away from becoming one of my patients. It's an odd notion and one that any moment of analysis can quickly dispel - I have good support networks, and don't really drink to excess in either quantity nor frequency - and yet I still have these nagging doubts. It's pleasantly refreshing to hear others have such moments and feel they have to stress-test themselves in the same manner that I sometimes do; turning down a glass of wine with the fiancee, purely to make sure that I can, secretly counting the days that I have gone without a drink. It's all rather bizarre stuff, pre-emtively acting to prevent something taht

Dark_Lemon: [accidently posted too soon] hasn't yet happened, based on worry about the future and regular exposure to worst case scenarios... That said, that's the basis of most things that motivate people...

Feel I should probably mention that I'm two beers down as I write this and am thinking about a third. S

TooNu: I don't drink, but I am not a tee total person. What I do is when I want a drink, it's usually something like a really nice bottle of red and I will drink 2 glasses from it and use the rest for cooking. OR I will make a classic cocktail and the missus and I will have a total of one glass each.

This happens every few months or so and it's akin to feeling the need to go to the cinema, or eating a Mars Bar. Every now and again it just happens.

I haven't posted here in a while :) but I visit often. I'm glad Gunpoint is still on!

Ramon: Why did you stop drinking? The story isnt' describing you as an alcoholic. You aren't dependant on it. So what made you do this? Next step is fast food or sigarettes or snacks in the evening? Just interested in your reasoning.