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.
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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.
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:
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
No revelations, just my overview of what we know so far and which bits are exciting.
“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.
“The simultaneous ambush and galaxy-wide hangar theft inflicted financial damage upwards of 30 billion ISK – $16,500 US dollars at IGE.com’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
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.