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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

Being Someone Else In Metal Gear Solid V

This post is part of a series. I mention abilities and tools but no story spoilers.

If you have keen eyesight, you might have noticed that the person in my screenshots is not straggly-bearded horned male Venom Boss Big Punished Ahab Snake. She’s Amber Fox, a low level support officer I think I extracted on an early mission [update: Andy tells me you get her by importing your Ground Zeroes save], along with another Fox with the same tattoo who might be her brother. She’s not a story character, just one of hundreds of recruits I have milling around my base.

Once you unlock the ‘combat’ bit of your base, you can choose to play as anyone you station there instead of Big Venom Punished Ahab. This is bizarre for many reasons.

  1. It must have been a huge amount of work to support something that there is little practical reason to do. The recruits mostly differ from Ahab Venom by lacking some of his abilities, and their own special traits often just restore one of them. Only two of my hundreds of recruits are women, and yet they’ve modeled a female-tailored version of every outfit Punished Big can wear. She has her own voice acting for common commands interactions like interrogating guards, and presumably the male recruits do too.
  2. And yet, it’s also a little shoddy. Not in any ways that matter at all to me, but it creates all these little contradictions and narrative ‘bugs’ that you would think a highly polished game like this would hate to ship. Everyone keeps calling you by the wrong name, some cut-scenes show your character but people treat you like Boss, others replace you with Boss, others won’t trigger unless you switch back to Boss. None of that is a problem for me, I’m just really surprised they were OK with it.
  3. And it seems totally at odds with a game that often seems determined to tell a very specific character-driven story. It has a long and expensively produced intro to set up who you are in this world, and why you’re doing this, then also puts in loads of work to let you not be that person.

Amber Fox Cigar

Anyway, I’m absolutely delighted that they did it despite all of this. I hate playing as grizzled old men in general, and the ridiculous miscellany of costume-shop accessories on Snake Boss’s face made it hard to forget: “You’re playing Hideo Kojima’s alternatingly extremely silly and extremely self-serious fantasy.”

Amber Fox just looks cool. It’s nice to be a woman in what is not only typically a man’s role, but in this case actually is a specific man’s role. I like when people call her Boss. I ret-con that she really was just some random recruit, given one field op to test out the new combat unit idea, and pulled it off so spectacularly that she became the organisation’s primary operative, and now everyone’s just kind of in awe of this very sensible, very practical, mysterious woman who just showed up and killed it. It made stories like this one all the more exciting for me, because I wasn’t playing as some superhuman legend, I was just a new recruit who had to nearly break herself to get the job done, and came out bleeding and gasping but triumphant.

This was the last game I expected to let me write my own story.


Gustav: I agree. It's strange, but pretty cool.

Here's a guide of how to unlock one of the women (although I had to do it a couple of times): http://www.polygon.c... ...ter-secret

Agent: I'd like to point out, as a fan of all the the Metal Gear games, the whole “You’re playing Hideo Kojima’s alternatingly extremely silly and extremely self-serious fantasy.” is exactly the part I like.

Matt: I've tried to staff my Combat Unit with as many women as possible. Seeing as though most of the people I pick up from Prisoner Extraction missions are women, I like to think putting them on combat duty lets them collect penance from their aggressors.

Apropos: While it's something I would never really indulge in myself, it really does appeal to me that they include this as an option.
It does create some rifts in the reality of the game, but as has been said elsewhere, the game is as much about being a game as it is telling a silly story about flaming whales.

Algiark: Damn, everything you said about "not be that person", and considering the game's ending... Now I wonder if The Phantom Pain is Kojima's biggest middle finger to the fourth wall.

Darkath: Just to point out, just like the character creation system used to make your face at the beginning of the game (which actually isn't used at all). It would seems crazy from a project management point of view to create full blown features that doesn't have any purpose in the game.

But actually most of them were developped in parallel for the upcoming competitive multiplayer mode Metal Gear Online. Those features were then fed back into the main game. That's why you can play amber and that everything you can do with snake, you can do with a female character with proper animation and voice.

Ultimately it's also possible that Kojima had larger plans for the combat unit in the game, but was eventually had to cut down on features for a game that is already a magnificent example of feature creep (and i love it)

Bludgeon Paragon: Playing as soldiers other than Big Punished Vic Venom actually increases their statistics over time depending on certain achievements (eg. finishing a main story mission before the actual protagonist nets a stat boost).

Amber Fox levels up to A-rank in combat after obtaining all combat medals, and her top-tier stat levels up to A+, making her a valuable staff member almost all the way to end-game. (It also helps that she basically has the Kojima Productions logo tattooed on her face and that she looks super-badass)

heine: i bought gunpoint and it wont open so i cant play it :(