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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

My Idea For An ‘Unconventional Weapon’ Game

I was ill for a few weeks recently, and Ludum Dare happened during it. As usual I wanted the challenge of thinking up an idea to fit the theme, but couldn’t spare the two days to actually make something. The theme was ‘an unconventional weapon’, so I wrote up an idea but didn’t get around to publishing it at the time. Here it is!

The Switch

Side-on platformer style view, very stark orange and black art style, rusty, nasty.

Your character and one other are slave labourers in a big, dilapidated factory of extremely dangerous machines. In a short, wordless intro:

Scene 1
  • A machine malfunctions and cuts your arm off
  • The guards ignore you
  • Your partner loses it and attacks a guard
  • The guard beats them
  • You try to help but collapse
  • You’re both overpowered dragged away
  • Your partner grabs something from the production line just as we fade to black
Scene 2
  • The guard drags you both, throws you into a chamber with blackened walls
  • Your stump is bandaged in a shirt but still bleeding
  • Just before your cell door closes, your partner throws something into your cell that clatters on the floor.
  • Your partner is thrown into a similar chamber opposite
  • When the guard walks away, there’s a small green light stuck to him
  • Faintly visible gas floods your partner’s cell with a hiss
  • It suddenly ignites in dazzling orange flame, then fades: nothing is left
  • When you pick up the object you get a prompt: “Right mouse: Switch”
  • The same gas floods into your cell
  • If you flick the switch, you and the guard instantly switch places: he’s incinerated and you’re free
  • If you don’t it is a short game
The Game

The Switch is a slim metal cylinder with a simple lever switch on the end. It now has something attached to the bottom: the Tag, a thin disc with the feel of a fridge magnet.

Left click throws the Tag. It sticks to whatever it hits, but the Switch only works if it’s stuck to a human: the things it switches need to be similar in mass and composition. It’s light enough that they won’t feel anything if they didn’t see you throw it, and you don’t have to be nearby or in line of sight to press Right mouse and switch places with them.

Once the tag is thrown, Left clicking again teleports it back to you without switching.

So it’s a stealth puzzle game about quietly tagging enemies, then purposefully throwing or trapping yourself into fatal hazards and switching at the last minute. The factory is a complete deathtrap: you’ll stand under smashing pistons, throw yourself into grinding gears, jump onto rusty sawblades, lock yourself in trash compactors, drop onto conveyor belts too fast to run against, walk off sheer drops, and dive onto safety railings have decayed into javelins of rust. The idea is invert the idea of avoiding death, and to make you feel a little of what you’re about to inflict: that physical wince just before you die of something unsettlingly physical in a videogame, like a long fall or heavy object.

Your task is to escape, obviously, and along the way you’ll mostly be using the Switch to get guards out of your way. In some situations, though, guards can also double as ‘lives’: tag one before attempting to navigate a tricky part of the factory, and if you slip and fail you can Switch to put him in your place and get another go. In those situations and others, killing isn’t strictly necessary, and if you’re trying to minimise it you’ll have to decide whether you want to set up that murderous contingency plan in case it comes to it.

Obviously there are thematic similarities with The Swapper, but both the tech and usage are different: that game was about cloning yourself, the Switch is just a teleporter. It’s about doing horribly suicidal and reckless things to yourself and using your unconventional weapon to transfer the consequences to others. Which is also why it needs a nasty intro and a persistent reminder of your desperate circumstances.

Previously: I came up with ideas for 8 previous game jams, 3 of which I actually made – Scanno Domini, Jake and the Infinite Jerkbots, and Floating Point. You can read about them all and play those three by browsing the game jams tag here.


Moritz: That sounds amazing! I think this would look great with a heavily pixelated art style like Crawl has it (http://www.powerhoof..., and blood splatter like in SuperMeatBoy.

If you ever decide to make a game out of this, I hope that you're not planning to add guns :P
If the guards had guns, you could switch places with a guard that tries to shoot you, and if you time it right, they'd be taken out by their own bullet. This in itself would be cool, but if it works every time, it would take away the need to creatively interact with the environment, which would be sad.

Tomas Sedovic: This doesn't resemble the Demon comic at all. No sir. (sounds like a pretty cool idea)

Marc Forrester: It's slightly more morally defensible than Demon. Maybe. Unless you end up worse.

Tom Francis: Moritz: Heh, I had exactly the same thought process about guns - cool idea, but if that trick works it undermines any actual puzzles. Might make a neat final encounter, though.

Daniel: That does sound like an amazing idea which could lead to interesting situations.
I would definitely buy this game!
Good for you for having such good ideas and imagination :-)

Valentine: ALL OF MY YES.

Shirow: Reminds me of "The Swapper"
Interesting story as well.

http://store.steampo... ...pp/231160/