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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

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Last night I accomplished probably the hardest thing I’ve ever managed in a video game: going to hell and back in Spelunky. It only took 41 minutes, but it took me hundreds of hours of play – and about 3,000 deaths – to learn how to do those 41 minutes. Here’s the run:

To complete Spelunky, you just have to survive 15 randomly generated levels and then trick the final boss into killing itself. To get to hell, though, you have to perform a series of specific rituals in a specific order, using unique objects that crop up in different places each time, and then defeat the boss in a particularly audacious way to use his death as a stepping stone to the underworld.

  • Somewhere in the mines there’ll be a Golden Key. Somewhere else in the mines there’s a Golden Chest. You have to pick one up and bring it to the other to unlock the chest and obtain the Udjat Eye.
  • Somewhere in the jungle, there’s a door buried behind solid rock. The only way to know which bit of solid rock is by getting close enough to it for the Udjat Eye to blink, faster the closer you are. If you find it, and if you have enough explosives to blow it open, you reach The Black Market.
  • The Black Market is full of shops selling a random selection of equipment, but in the very back, there’s a shop that sells something you can’t find anywhere else: The Ankh of Resurrection. It costs more than any other item in the game, an amount of money it’s hard to acquire this early, and all it does is give you one extra life. And if you want to get to Hell, you can’t use it.
  • Until, somewhere in the ice caverns, you find the Moai Head. It’s an impenetrable stone statue, but the next item you need is inside it: the Hedjet. The Moai Head is inscribed with the symbol of the Ankh, a hint at the horrible secret: the only way in is to kill yourself. The Ankh resurrects you inside, but is lost forever.
  • Beneath the ice caverns you’ll find the temple, and somewhere on the first level of the temple you’ll find Anubis, a flying god with a heat-seeking psionic death staff whose projectiles can pass through walls. Kill him. Take the Staff.
  • Somewhere on the next level of the temple will be a Golden Door. Combining the Hedjet with the Staff creates the key, the key opens the door, and the door leads you to the City of Gold.
  • The City of Gold used to be the secret, one of the most elaborate in gaming. I wrote a whole feature about it. But in this version of Spelunky, it’s just another step in the path to Hell. Somewhere in its solid gold walls is the Book of the Dead. Take it and Anubis II, the undead version of the god you just killed, will rise. He can fly through walls and summon infinite skeletons and follow you between levels.
  • Kill Anubis II, make it to Olmec, the boss of the regular game, and the Book of the Dead will start… chomping. Find the place it chomps fastest. Find a way to make Olmec stomp there, until he sinks into the lava. Stand on Olmec’s head as he sinks, and walk through the Door to Hell just above the lava’s surface.
  • And that gets you to level 1. Of Hell, the most dangerous world of one of the most danger-obsessed games around. Hell isn’t just a secret level, it’s a secret world, as big as any of the main ones. And at the end is an even bigger boss. Only by completing it and defeating him do you actually escape, and that’s what I did for the first time last night.

    The interesting thing about this insane process is that I never read a guide to it. I heard about each bit of the puzzle by word of mouth, a stray screenshot, an accidentally read spoiler, or a Let’s Play that revealed more than I thought it would.

    It’s a weird modern equivalent of folklore, an elaborate story about secrets and artifacts that’s passed from person to person by excitement. And those of us who pursue it have memorised every illogical step of the improbable tale. Some of it we’ve tried for ourselves, some of it many times. But until you make it all the way through, part of it is still legend, and that’s tantalising.


Remachinate: As you wrote in 2009, "In fact, it sometimes seems to be telling you in no uncertain terms to go to hell."

How unknowingly prescient.

Lily Fox: Secrets like this - and their discovery - feels like a relic of gaming long past, before the ubiquity of the Internet, before CD cover discs. When was the last time you learned of something as huge as this in a game by word of mouth?

Daniel F: Tom, you should mention also how the key items are inscribed on the door that opens to show you the menu screen. (In the original, were they drawn on the wall of the entry room?)

Tom C: Daniel F: I've never really paid much attention to the door before, but that's pretty cool - it even shows you which areas of the game each is in: ...pAXK6T.jpg


Michael: This run was amazing. It had everything: action, romance, pugs, pug romance. I'll definitely be picking it up on DVD when it comes out

Jason L: Of course, if you're quite lucky and a bit skillful you can skip the Eye and still pick up the rest of the chain. That seems like the most ideally tuned situation to me.

dh: Congrats, i watched :)
Found your site by googling tom pentadact (from the spelunky credits you lucky man)

Ninja Foodstuff: Wow, just wow! Spelunky is a game I'd love to play but at this point it just seems too intimidating. Seriously 4000 attempts? That's just incredible.

Jason L: The important thing about Spelunky is that almost every single one of them, right from the start, is interesting and usually funny. It is the antithesis of grind.

Daxar: I was watching a livestream last night where someone was attempting an eggplant run -- imagine doing all that run while holding an extremely fragile eggplant that breaks if hit by anything. This guy has been attempting this for weeks solid, and last night was the first time anyone has ever successfully done it in singleplayer. Suffice it to say that everyone in chat was super excited when he finally threw it at the final boss and finished the game.

sclpls: Congratulations! Of course, it's not over yet! Now you need to successfully do the eggplant run! ;-)

Colin: Awesome. I feel like a noobcake with 750 runs at the game but I've been to hell. Just nowhere near the final boss.

Did you see the article on EG with the 1st person to record an eggplant run?

Spelunky | Techno 101: […] To Hell And Back In Spelunky ( […]

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Deathrage83: I made it to the temple with all the necessary items and I guess it glitches because annubis was no where to be found on the first level of the temple. I also searched the second level and he wasn't there either. I've only died 1233 total deaths and I get better with each run so hopefully I'll make it to the elusive hell level soon enough.