All posts


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

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle is an indie game in development by Jordan Thomas, Stephen Alexander and Kain Shin. It takes place inside an unfinished game, one you can see being built around you. And when I tested it, for reasons I won’t go into, my objective was to ‘Ghost the Sky Bastard’.

The trouble was, the Sky Bastard was across a large gap, and I can’t fly. I can trap the various creatures scuttling around this land, and when they’re trapped I can edit their behaviour. But behaviours are like inventory items: if you’ve only found one creature with ‘fly’ as a behaviour, you can take that out, but you can still only put it in one other thing to make it fly.

That was a shame, because I had a small army of dogs. I’d been editing pretty much every one I found. My first, and favourite, I have programmed to hate corpses, so every now and then he scampers furiously off and I know there’s a dead body somewhere nearby.

Luckily, though, I’ve also found a ‘hive mind’ behaviour. This makes one creature copy all his other behaviours to every other creature of his type. So if I change Corpsehater’s movement type to flying, then give him hive mind, all dogs will fly.

That would be cool. But I still don’t know if they’ll win against the Sky Bastard. So I also give Corpsehater a trait called Last Word, which poisons whoever kills him. Since he also has Hive Mind, now I have an army of dogs, killing any one of whom fatally poisons you.

But wait: now they don’t need their bite! They’re gonna kill him anyway. So I can replace Corpsehater’s bite attack with a tractor beam, and then I’d have an army of flying tractor beam dogs, which is, as the saying goes, its own reward.

The last thing I have to do is motivate them: you can’t control your AI allies directly, so I have to program them to hate the Sky Bastard. I do so.

White datastreams erupt from Corpsehater’s head and arc over to each of his seven dog friends, copying his traits to them. All eight dogs sprout helicopter rotors and lift into the air. All eight dogs turn to face the Sky Bastard, and all eight dogs float off towards him. Once they’re in range, all eight dogs emit tractor beams at him, pulling him off his platform to fight them in the air. And he can fight them fine, but alas, all eight dogs are made of poison.

To be honest, I couldn’t entirely parse the aerial fracas as it happened – but at the end of it, the Sky Bastard was definitely ghosted.

Nick: Is that a game, or a post-coding fever dream?

And are programming game-logic games the new procedural generation?

The end point of this trend would be developers giving you a C++ compiler and saying have fun.

William: This sounds really fun. Like Creatures but... malevolent.

Jabberwok: After a cursory search onlne, I'm still uncertain whether this game exists.

Magnificentophat: Very delayed response, here's a link to the steam page if you never found it since you wrote this comment.