Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint about rewiring things and punching people, I'm on a weekly gaming podcast called The Crate & Crowbar, I wrote these two short stories in the Machine of Death collections, and I used to write articles like these for PC Gamer. I'm now prototyping two new games, Heat Signature and one about grappling hooks.
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Mark K: Congrats Tom, from all of us who read your website. I...
Alex: The system is getting deeper and deeper, I like it :D
The podcast I am party to, the Crate and Crowbar, now has a forum. On it, Gunpoint artist John Roberts has started a thread for tales of people’s in-game adventures, starting with a good one of his own about FTL. And someone else mentioned an old story of mine from that game. I don’t think I ever linked it here, so I will now:
Last night I accomplished probably the hardest thing I’ve ever managed in a video game: going to hell and back in Spelunky. It only took 41 minutes, but it took me hundreds of hours of play – and about 3,000 deaths – to learn how to do those 41 minutes. Here’s the run: Continued
I feel terribly guilty about Gunpoint’s success, so I often wonder if there’s some way I can use what I’ve learned from it to help. The trouble is that offering any kind of advice seems to make people angry – people who aren’t in your exact situation feel like you’re ignoring their circumstances, criticising their methods or dismissing their struggles.
So maybe I can take some advice from myself and share my experiences and instead of my opinions.
Lately I’ve got to talk to a lot of developers at conferences and festivals, particularly ones who are working on their first indie game and have lots of specific questions about what we did with Gunpoint. So probably the most helpful thing I can do is give a kind of structured breakdown of Gunpoint’s conception, development, recruitment and promotion, then let people delve into whatever they’re curious about.
It’s not a guide to what you should do, it’s just a guide to what I did and how it worked out. Click a topic to expand it. Continued
However bad at games writing I might be now, I was a lot worse when I started at PC Gamer nine years ago. When I first applied, my sample piece was so bad I didn’t even get an interview. I was hired as a coverdisc editor a few months later, and spent two years trying to worm my way into a writing job by volunteering for every piece I could get. Continued
My second piece of published fiction will be out in July this year, as part of This Is How You Die: the second collection of stories about a machine that can predict your death. (My first was a story in the original collection, and you can read it here).
But! Editor David Malki is also Kickstarting a card game based on the same concept, and since it’s blown its funding goal by over 1000%, they’re releasing a few stories from the anthology to say thanks.
One of them is mine! You can read it now! Here it is!
It’s about a supervillain’s henchman tasked with the job of having their enemies killed in a way that doesn’t contradict their predicted deaths. It is called: LAZARUS REACTOR FISSION SEQUENCE!
If you can’t read it, go here.
I don’t argue on the internet anymore. The short version is: it usually gets hostile, and that drives everyone further away from changing their minds.
But I spend a lot of time thinking about whether there’s a way to contribute to a discussion without derailing it. Whether there’s some way of knowing, in advance, that what you’re about to say will make you look like an asshole, start a fight, or be outright wrong.
I think there is. Continued
“In Skyrim, a mage is an unstoppable storm of destruction. In real life, a mage is just an illusionist: they can’t do much except trick you. If one of them turned out to be the world’s only hope of salvation, hijinks and sudden death would inevitably ensue. Since these are my two favourite things, I’ve decided to try playing this way.” Continued
Published a long while back, don’t think I ever linked it here. A long-suppressed rant at mainstream action game design.
“The instant the first character speaks, I reflexively want them to shut up. If there’s text on screen, I’m not reading it. If there’s a cut-scene, I’m skipping it. If there are no enemies to shoot, I shoot my friends, and if I can’t shoot my friends, I shoot just next to my friends and then swing my crosshair onto them as quickly as possible in a lame attempt to glance them with a bullet I know won’t do anything. I thought that was normal.
Then, playing Bulletstorm the other night and hating every second of it, I had an awful realisation: this is my fault. I’m the reason games suck now. I’m the lazy, belligerent jerk every mainstream shooter seems to be designed for, and it’s because of gamers like me that they’re built this way.”
The creative director of Bulletstorm responded to me, which led to an interesting discussion.
When you look at them, you immediately want to see it. I wanted to see it so much I wrote it. Continued
George Buckenham invited me on his podcast to tell him about a particular thing about a particular game I particularly loved. I picked a conceptually weird bit of logic from Dark Messiah of Might and Magic that makes kicking people more fun. It’s about five minutes.
I don’t argue on the internet anymore, but I have some ideas on how to do it without defeating yourself and also human decency.
Update: This post now has a sort of sequel, suggesting ways to contribute to an argument without being an asshole.
After eight years as a games journalist and two as a part time developer, I have decided what I think of games: I like them. I’ve also figured out some of the reasons I like them, some of the reasons I sometimes don’t, and which of these things I really care about.
I’m far enough through making my own game, Gunpoint, to get a feel for which of these things I can actually do. But I’m still new at this. A lot of them are things I figured out during development, and Gunpoint itself doesn’t reflect them all. So this is a mission statement: a way for me to be specific and public about what I’d like to do in games, and how I plan to do it. Continued