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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.

  • RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d happily pay 10 bucks or so for it.
  • Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :) 2) The non-hand holding, simple systems integrating...
  • Jack: Are you going to release Morphblade for iOS or the Nintendo Switch? I would really like to play this on my...
  • Spaceman Moses: One-eyeing this on my phone from the depths of my covers I lazily ask: what do you mean XCOM2 clarity...
  • kripto: For what it’s worth, I also like Morphblade more than Imbroglio. Although, to be fair, I’ve also...
  • 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

    SWAT 4: The Movie Script

    Mainstream Games

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

    Published a long while back, don’t think I ever linked it here. A long-suppressed rant at mainstream action game design.

    “The instant the first character speaks, I reflexively want them to shut up. If there’s text on screen, I’m not reading it. If there’s a cut-scene, I’m skipping it. If there are no enemies to shoot, I shoot my friends, and if I can’t shoot my friends, I shoot just next to my friends and then swing my crosshair onto them as quickly as possible in a lame attempt to glance them with a bullet I know won’t do anything. I thought that was normal.

    Then, playing Bulletstorm the other night and hating every second of it, I had an awful realisation: this is my fault. I’m the reason games suck now. I’m the lazy, belligerent jerk every mainstream shooter seems to be designed for, and it’s because of gamers like me that they’re built this way.”

    The creative director of Bulletstorm responded to me, which led to an interesting discussion.


    Popeye Doyle: Game scripts tend to follow films, so they want to introduce all the characters and the world in the first 30 minutes. Really they should let the player play for 30 minutes, then when he's started to care about the character he's interacting with, the script should start telling them about the chap and the world he's in. At that point, the player should be more curious and attentive, or at least reasonably willing to take a break from all the action.

    Pod: Maybe games should have a target audience in the system requirements, so that we don't have to go lowest-common-denominator with the 'PRESS E OR ELSE' stuff?

    "You must be not-shit at playing games to play this game"
    "You must have played 3 other FPS games to play this game".
    "You must actively know an an options menu is to be able to play this game"

    Curly: I always left Black Mesa East with guns completely empty, because I'd shot them dry at the yammering fucks who wouldn't let me out of the room.

    Most games with stories are made worse by those stories. Most game designers don't have a story to tell. We get regurgitated Saturday morning cartoons for cutscenes because the designers don't care about plot or dialog and only include them to check off an item on the feature list.

    And you're not a dick for wanting to skip that. And neither am I. I realise it was probably just the conceit of the piece, but I found it far too apologetic. Indifferent designer bores player with moronic plot, player revolts, designer tightens the screws? Player is not at fault.

    SenatorPalpatine: I remember this editorial from a year ago and still agree with it. Every time I play a co-op game the first thing I do is test if there is friendly fire, to my friend's chagrin. Haven't played Bulletstorm though.

    I feel reassured that this site is still here and looks the same after so many moons. I have been covertly monitoring its content via RSS for some time.

    Phydaux: I never caught these the first time around. Interesting reading. And a bit depressing. It really does seem like Adrian Chmielarz (and many other AAA game designers) seem to think that user testing is the best way to go for a great game?

    Why do they think that people who have bought their £50 game are going to give up if they don't know how to crouch, or shoot, or move. Seriously who would spend that kind of money, then give up at the beginning because they didn't know how to control the game?

    User test-groups probably respond badly because they don't care and they're not invested in it.

    And, I seriously hate installing an old game that forces me through all this. "It's your first play-through so the tutorial is mandatory and all the cut-scenes are unskippable" Uuuurgh.

    If only Minecraft had unskippable tutorials, it may have became a massive success, and not the niche underground title that it is... oh wait. ;)

    HothMonster: Interesting, have you seen this recent piece by Chmielarz? Seems like your conversation stuck with him, at least in some way.

    ps, where do you keep the dates around here?

    HothMonster: Nevermind, no it doesn't. Your post sent me down a link spiral and I read the middle and down of that post without reading the top. I read the connection into it.

    Your button is smart.

    Jason L: In the URL.

    Flint: Best example of this that I can remember is when I played Metro: Last Light.

    "Hi I'm Miller!"
    "Don't care"

    "Hi I'm Anna"
    "Nice ass. Don't care"

    "Hi I'm a radioactive winged demon thingy!"
    "BLAM. Don't care."

    Jabberwok: This is really just regurgitating what's been said already, but I wanted to add my voice in saying that I will willingly invest myself in games that let me do what I want. I grew up on Fallout and other RPGs that let me go anywhere and attack anyone, and I was perfectly willing to engage with the story and play the part required of me, because I knew that it was actually ME playing it. But the second developers started throwing in invincible NPCs, I jut wanted to kill them all (the NPCs, not the developers).