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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

Thoughts On Dragon Age: Inquisition

We discuss DA:I on the latest Crate and Crowbar podcast, and since it’s also up on YouTube, I can embed specific bits. The Invisible Inc chat at the start overlaps a lot with my post here, so let’s skip straight to Dragon Age, which I played for about 30-40 hours over the break.

I have thoughts on why the combat still feels murky after all this time, my experience switching from Casual to Hard, my lesbian Inquisitor trying to seduce the only two straight women in Thedas, the difference between this and Mass Effect, and the one great thing that’s the same.

As before it’s Tom Senior you hear first, I’m the one who pipes up at 44m55s.

More ,

A random dude: Any spoilers at all? Haven't played it yet :/

Karthik: (Note: The below has very minor narrative spoilers for Inquisition. Nothing surprising if you've played a Biogame before.)

I've played Dragon Age: Inquisition for about 70 hours(!) now. It's a large and complex thing, and I don't have a single concise opinion about it all. And the good stuff is good indeed. But man, it is disappointing to see Bioware make the same mistakes over and over.

Their idea of player choice is still about choosing things off a menu instead of doing stuff. Most choices are still loop-arounds to an ordained plot. This would be okay if it let you express yourself, but you still cannot actually roleplay a specific kind of person, unless the entirety of that person is limited to being sassy and vacuous. The narrative is still completely disconnected from every other mechanic in jarring ways. In fact, the other abstractions are weirdly connected, such as the Power mechanic: finding someone's lost goat in the Hinterlands is effectively helping you gain an invitation to a royal party in Orlais. The combat is still too noisy, entirely attritional and a chore. Enemies in combat still live by different rules. There's even fewer options to set up and script companion combat tactics now.

It also fails to show-don't-tell. Bioware's never been great at this, but I'm tired of hearing how powerful the Inquisition has become when there is little evidence to show for it but random NPC chatter.

Some of these are undoubtedly tradeoffs for the ever-rising production values of their games, but I believe most of their design is in dire need of a complete overhaul. Everything, in fact, that does not have to do with companions and their character arcs. Pouring even more stuff into the mix, as Dragon Age Inquisition does, does not help.

Damien: I just platinum'd the game on the PS4 and I did not find the same issues as you Tom with the combat. Perhaps you have an innate skill with such games but I did not find myself dying to just the one hit kills. I think you, or someone else on the crate and crowbar, had mentioned about the limited potions slots in the game and how this is a suitable solution to the problem that any difficulty is made trivial as long as you stock enough health potions. I had to use the old trick of saving before each battle in the event that I used too many potions and would not have ample supply for the inevitable boss battles.

Through careful mitigation (certainly not relying 100% on the AI) of barriers and which enemy my rogue chooses to engage over my shield warrior most of the NPC's would not be able to actually break into my health bars. However, ignoring the use of the tactical display (used mostly do apply barriers and dodge big attacks) even running around as a level 22 group saw level 15 NPCs take out half my party before I realised what was going on. The noise of the battle is certainly not that noisy when the fight was paused 5-10 seconds to reissue commands and the situations assessed. A longer fight? Certianly was; it took me 40 min to take out my first dragon. But it was nightmare difficulty and the dragon was one level above me. That was one of the greatest feelings of triumph I have felt in a game.

Game of the (last) year!