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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.

Hitman header tunnel

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Far Cry Primal Thumbnail

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Snowball jack header

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone and Bladestorm

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

BAFTA Featured

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Sectors Header

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

DXHR Open area

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Heat Signature Natural Numbers

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Pharma Header

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Make A Game Tutorial Thumbnail Featured IMage

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

Her Story banner

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

Invisible Header

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Super Game Jam Header

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

Shadow of Mordor Header 2

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Heat Signature Talk

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX


What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

Murder, She Wrote

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Wide 2

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Heat Signature Floorplans Header

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Steam Workshop

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance Header

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

The Magic Circle

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Blog Launch

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Floating Sine

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point


What’s Your Fault?

Hoplite banner

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Gone Point

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature Thumbnail

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

GRappling Hook Thumbnail

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

Alien Swarm Heroics

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

FTL Story

One Desperate Battle In FTL

Spelunky Banner

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Game vs story graph

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Breakdown

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Max Payne 3

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

This is how you die

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection


Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Skyrim Diary - Frostmere

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

Mainstream Games

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault


A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

Dark Messiah

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot


Arguing On The Internet


Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Stealth Games

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?


E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

Suspicious Manifesto

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

What Makes Games Good

Seat Quest

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Beneath Suspicion

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

Open Worlds

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

Level Up

A Different Way To Level Up

BioShock Ending

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

Meet the Spy

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Football Manager

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE Assassins

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

GalCiv 2

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary


I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Machine of Death

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood money and sex

Blood Money And Sex


A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

Second Life

First Night, Second Life


SWAT 4: The Movie Script

One Problem With Open Game Development

In general I really like open game development – talking and writing publicly about what I’m working on – but I do have one problem. The time when I want to share what I’ve been making is when, after an exhausting amount of work, I’ve finally created something I’m happy with. But sharing it invites critique: anyone who sees a way it could be better will generally tell you about it.

And it’s just the wrong time to hear it. I spend all the rest of my time dissatisfied – that’s how I get things done. The point when I’m actually happy with it is the light at the end of the tunnel, and sharing it is part of how I celebrate. Having it picked apart right then – even if the suggestions are fair – is crushing. I go from exhausted but happy to exhausted, miserable, and daunted. It doesn’t even help me make the thing better, because I’m too demoralised to work on it anymore.

Sometimes, of course, I ask for feedback. But when I don’t, I think I’m going to just quietly disable comments. It’s not a case of “Oh god the comments”, it’s just an evasive way of saying “I’m not looking for feedback on this.” I stay aware of any real problems by doing lots of playtesting, and if it’s something that doesn’t bother actual players, it’s not worth having my enthusiasm drained over it.

Marc Forrester: Sounds a lot like Heat Signature is close to release from here :D

Shaun Cheah: Ah snap, I'm probably guilty of this. I see something I like and I think I have an idea of how it could be better and I just say so without thinking of the effect that criticism will have on the thing's creator. It's something I should work on, I think.

But yeah, I can see how this is a good thing. I've heard a lot of advice to just never read comments ever because they tend to be terrible all the time, but that advice predates the rise of the upvote/downvote system which allowed comments sections to kinda manage themselves. This is a good middle ground, I think.

StevenM: I feel a similar sense of misery but for a different reason. I generally produce my work and shop it around for the explicit purpose of people giving suggestions and critique. The misery comes when a fix seems so obvious I wonder how, through hours of toil, I overlooked it completely. So I go "I finished it!" to "How did I miss that?!" to "Well I know what to fix now".

The general solution for this scenario, I've found, is the old standby of simply waiting until the next day and reviewing the work with a fresh perspective. Often I revise the piece again before shopping it around. Sometimes people still find obvious errors - and that's fine, too. It means I have a plan of action.

James Thompson: I can totally empathise with this. When you get to a point where you feel really happy with something you have worked hard on, then getting even totally valid criticism is really dispiriting.

tinyangrycrab: You are a bro. Do not fret and accept your broitude. Good work bro!

Austin Moore: I can understand what you mean and i think this counts for everything , i remember an essay i spent an few days on and was so proud of it i freaked out when handing it in because i did not want to see the mistakes.

If you don't want to be showing off every detail that's fine, i think its amazing you are doing any kind of open development

Keep it up Tom. :)

Diego: This is a great post but you could have improved it with examples where this happened, this way the reader won't be confused as to whether he was one who gave unwanted criticism. :P

This was a joke. I hate making this disclaimer, but I'm on the internet for long enough to appreciate its importance.

Seriously now, I understand your point. And I never thought about that before.

TooNu: Oh goodness, now I don't know what I said about the testing :/ this is a really great post Tom, it must be emotionally draining of course and I appreciate how open you have been about your development time.

Feedback is great, but it sucks also for the reasons you've written. Hopefully the process will be worth it and you can look back and believe it was all worth it (despite how negative you felt at times).

Good luck anyway Tom :) I will buy Heat signature on day 1 anyway :)

icuurd12b42: Heat Signature is starting to look pretty sweet.