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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

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).