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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

Games Successfully Developed At Stugan 2016 So Far

I’m in a cabin in the woods in Sweden for seven weeks, with 20ish other game developers, all working on our own games. This is Stugan. None of us have finished yet, but we have successfully developed the following non-digital games along the way, and I release them to you now:


Throw A Rock As Far As You Can

Players: 1+

  • Select a rock.
  • Throw it as far as you can.
    Probably best to do this at the lake.
    The reeds in the lake serve as good distance marker.
    It is interesting to determine the optimal size of a rock for distance.
    It is somewhat interesting to determine the optimal throwing angle.
    The random nature of available rocks makes true scientific assessments of adjustments in method tricky.
    Although Throw A Rock As Far As You Can can be played with others, the true enemy is the prison of your mind.


    Catchy Pinecone

    Players: 1

  • Throw two pinecones in the air.
  • Attempt to catch them overhand, one in each hand.
    This is easier when your throw is very symmetrical and your two hands can do the same catching action.
    It is slightly more interesting to intentionally avoid this.


    Super Catchy Pinecone

    Players: 2

  • Player 1 faces away from player 2.
  • Player 2 counts 3-2-1-go and throws the pinecone on go.
  • Player 1 must turn around, visually acquire the pinecone, and catch it all in its short flight time, in order to look like a cool person.
  • Regardless of whether coolness was achieved, Player 1 now throws the cone.

    Catchy Highcone

    Players: 2

  • Player 1 throws a pinecone to Player 2, but much too high to catch without jumping.
  • Player 2 jumps and attempts to catch the pinecone.
    Notes: this is not as good as Super Catchy Pinecone, which is reflected in its name.


    Throwy Pinecone

    Players: 1+

  • Throw a pinecone at a canoe.
    Notes: this is weirdly hard.


    Shit Dice Game

    Players: 2+

  • Take one die.
  • All players guess the outcome.
  • Roll the die.
  • Whoever is closest without exceeding the value wins.
    Notes: the ‘closest without exceeding’ thing I am half remembering from something else, and it ruins this already fairly weak game.


    Dice of Havoc

    Players: 2+

  • Take a large handful of assorted dice.
  • All players guess what the summed total of the results will be.
  • Roll them.
  • The closest wins.
    Notes: the first round of this is the best, before everyone has established how many of what kinds of dice are involved, because no-one has a good ballpark of what the value might be. We guessed in the hundreds and the value was sixty something.


    Buoyancy Ball

    Players: 1+

  • Take a cheap plasticky football into a pool.
  • Push it under the surface and attempt to stand on it.
  • If you succeed, jump up and down on the ball.
  • The person who can jump highest and still return to a balance position afterwards is the winner.
    Getting into the balance position seems very hard at first, but can usually be mastered quickly.
    If you are light enough for the ball to counteract your water weight, this game may be impossible.
    If you want to get technical, as anyone having fun in a pool naturally would, jump height should be measured relative to the person’s standing height, to control for player height.


    Super Buoyancy Ball

    Players: 2+

  • Take a cheap plasticky football into a pool.
  • Push it under the surface and attempt to stand on it.
  • Now try to pass it to another player with your feet.
  • The other player must take control of the ball and attain the balance position before the pass can be considered successful.

    Shooty Balloon

    Players: 2+

  • Take some balloons and some water pistols into a pool.
  • Knock the balloons around, not letting them touch the ground or water.
  • Every player must shoot every balloon between every time it is touched.
    Notes: with enough balloons and guns this quickly becomes impossible, but involves so much shooting that it’s hard not to enjoy.


    Monsoon Balloon

    Players: 2+

  • Take two balloons into a pool, and give everyone water pistols.
  • Players divide into two teams, each with a ball in front of them.
  • Players must propel their team’s ball to the other side of the pool only by shooting it.
  • Players may not move from their starting position.
    Notes: this is awesome.


    Catch or Die

    Players: 2+

  • Player 1 stands in the pool facing away from Player 2.
  • Player 2 throws the ball to Player 1.
  • At or shortly before the opportune time to catch the ball, Player 2 advises Player 1 to ‘Catch!’
  • Player 2 attempts to catch the ball without turning around.
    We tried ‘3-2-1-go’ but it doesn’t work well as the thrower does not know in advance when the best time to catch will be. We saw best results from just saying ‘Ready’ shortly before throwing, so the catcher has a rough notion, but still relying on the precise timing of the ‘Catch!’ for success.
    I guess there is no special reason this game needs to be in a pool.
    If the catch fails, it is not strictly necessary to die, but it is against the spirit of the game to go on with your life.

    Armel adds:


    Players: 2+

  • Put an american football inside a ring frisbee
  • Players must stand in a circle, each separated by at least 5 yards
  • Throw the Frisball at each others without it loosing its integrity
  • Notes:
    The building phase of the Frisball itself is underrated, as playing with a carefully made Frisball drastically improves the chance of it not falling apart after even the lightest throw.
    Some purists say the real game only begins when someone else asks what the hell everyone is doing and you have to think of a clever explanation.

    Chris: > Although Throw A Rock As Far As You Can can be played with others, the true enemy is the prison of your mind.

    Tom, you're hilarious!

    Jabberwok: Sort of sounds like none of you have done any actual work......

    Bret: No actual work?

    They developed shit dice game! What more could you want?

    skuzzbag: Are these VR games? Or have they accidentally just grouped together the most inept imaginations on the planet?

    CdrJameson: I can feel these games aren't going to end well.
    Carry on like this and you'll get some of these.

    Stir Crazy Pinecone
    A pinecone is thrown vertically into the air and in the brief time before it hits the ground everyone must think of a fact about hit 1980 Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder prison comedy film Stir Crazy and shout it out loud.

    Repeated or duplicated facts result in elimination, as does mistakenly contributing something from The Shawshank Redemption.

    The game is repeated until only a single person remains 'in'.

    No concession is made to people too young to have seen the film. Mentioning something from See No Evil, Hear No Evil or Silver Streak means you are eliminated and the pine cone gets thrown at you next round very hard.

    IMDB may be necessary for adjudication

    Here's Pinecone
    Driven mad by the isolation, one member of the group must attempt to murder all others with a pinecone. Bonus points for smashing through a door, or scrawling ENOCENIP in blood somewhere visible.

    Keyan: Tom, the shit dice mechanic you are half remembering is from, The Price is Right an American daytime game-show. This is how basically all guessing type disputes are handled amongst my friends and family and is the accepted method without question. To me, the without exceeding bit is what really "makes" shit dice!

    The Puzzler: "Shit Dice Game" omits to explain one of the rules: 'All players guess the outcome.' Do they do this in any particular order, or in secret? If you guess 3 first, then I'll guess 4, so you can only win on a 3, while I can win on a 4, 5 or 6.
    'thing I am half remembering from something else': Do you mean 'The Price is Right'?