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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

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

This is great, people keep linking me to things I wrote ages ago and forgot about, so I can link them here. Snowskeeper Ferenczy points out this, something I wrote very fast after a game of Alien Swarm one night that seemed necessary to report.

“Our main gunner, a Special Weapons guy with the Minigun I coveted, ran ahead and got himself infested. I had my medic gun out, but he panicked, ran away, bumped into a door and exploded in a shower of slithering facehuggers. We all just kind of looked at each other.”

Touching heroics in Alien Swarm

One Desperate Battle In FTL

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:

It’s worse to lose your shields than almost any other system. But I bet the AI doesn’t know this. I bet the AI is aiming for something much less important, like our life support. I could actually take my shields offline and let this shot go through.

FTL diary: one desperate battle in a brilliant spaceship management game

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

“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.”

My diary of an illusionist in Skyrim is now all online. Start from the first entry, or if you’re up to date, here’s the final one.

Hope you enjoy/enjoyed it. It totally reinvented the game for me, made the world feel dangerous in a way it hadn’t since I first started. And something about having no weapons or armour makes the experience more convincing – I found myself appreciating the scenery more, being happy to trudge through the sparkling snow on a sunny day.

It makes me really want a Skyrim Survival Mode. One where you remain realistically vulnerable at all times, and leaving a town is heart-thumpingly tense. You’d need to eat before you could sleep, and sleep once a day to stay sharp. The only impetus to risk the wilderness would be to hunt animals, gather ingredients, or hope to find something valuable enough to sell for food before you find something too fast to run from.

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

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.

My Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

My review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is finally online. It is the greatest thing. The game, not the review. Kind of a big one, so I hope I explained it well enough.

On PC Gamer Lately

The PC Gamer site moves pretty fast these days, so I might occasionally recap what I’ve done there recently. Here’s some of my stuff from the last month:

The complete Minecraft Experiment

Finally finished my Minecraft diary about playing in hardcore mode. Response to its end was amazing, for a story about a man trying to eat a cake while falling to his death on fire. Definitely looking to do another in a different game.

Mass Effect 3 wishlist

Relapsed on both the previous games lately – the differences are extraordinary. Mass Effect is by far the most compelling main story of any BioWare game I’ve played, it’s so weird that Mass Effect 2 is narratively bankrupt when it improves so much else. This list is how I want to see the best bits combined.

Games as art masterpieces

I put up a collection of awesome art/games mashup images by artist Drew Northcott. We used them in our mag a few years back, but few seemed to get the references. Wanted to see them get a bigger exposure.

Playing the first three hours of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It’s brutal, and should be illegal on a gamepad.

Magicka Vietnam is a thing now

One of the most sublime announcements I can remember, a game whose very name is both setup and punchline, and an indulgently batshit trailer. Starting to really like the Magicka guys.

Mojang interview: why they’re making Scrolls

Got to talk to the Minecraft guys about why their next game is a turn-based strategy based on collectible card games.

Dawn of War 2: Retribution review

Loved it. Relic are now the best RPG developer never to have made an RPG.

Picks from Dead End Thrills’ ridiculous Crysis gallery

Old but still astonishing, even next to Crysis 2.

Editorial: How mainstream games butchered themselves and why it’s my fault

Realised the restrictive tropes that frustrate me about modern games are probably my fault. Bulletstorm’s creative director responds to explain why his game is made that way, which starts an interesting discussion.

‘A very good chance’ of Spelunky HD on PC

Megaton hypernews of the millennium. So goddamn excited. Also, a little on why the days of XBLA as the ‘big time’ for indies may be over.

Battlefield 3 wishlist

Not all me this time, since Bad Company split office opinion somewhat and we wanted to get a good selection of views. My main one is for a return to the emergent camaraderie of leading a squad of strangers in Battlefield 2.

Reinstall: System Shock 2

I go back to the cold metal corridors of the Von Braun, and remember how personal stories kept me going in this place.

Skyrim preview

No revelations, just my overview of what we know so far and which bits are exciting.

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

“Portrait? I don’t have a photo ready for this, but I’ll see what I’ve got in My Documents. Ah yes, an animated GIF Tim sent me of David Hasselhoff wearing David Hasselhoff briefs, which zooms into his crotch recursively, forever. Perfect.”


Over at the PC Gamer blog today, the full story of my doomed attempt to play the one game I know for sure I’ll hate: Football Manager. It doesn’t go well.

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

“The simultaneous ambush and galaxy-wide hangar theft inflicted financial damage upwards of 30 billion ISK – $16,500 US dollars at’s prices. The value of the stolen assets utterly dwarfed the original fee for the job. And yet the only item the Guiding Hand’s anonymous client requested for himself was the cold, dead body of the target. It’s safe to say this was personal.” Continued

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

Galactic Civilizations 2 is a strategy game about colonising space. The cool thing about it is the AI: the alien races you meet have very different personalities, and it’s fun to bargain with them and play them off against each other.

Long ago, I tried playing the biggest possible match of it, with the most possible alien races, and wrote up how it went in bite-sized entries.


CVG, the site I wrote this diary on, is gone forever. But the diary is now back up on PC Gamer’s site! It starts here.