I am the Senior Programmer at Tripwire Interactive and have been working on Break Blocks on the side in an attempt to strike out on my own and give some money to charity in the process; which is why Greater Good Games is structured as a Not-For-Profit company.

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November Update - What Are We Thankful For?

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A new beat marker! One of the most fundamental elements to gameplay in Break Blocks is the Beat Marker. We've made some changes that we believe will make it easier for you to time your hits. I discuss this change as well as some others (such as the addition of voice acting by the very talented Jarrod Lipshy) in the following dev blog update on YouTube. Check it out, and stay tuned as we will soon be updating the executable available for download.

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Break Blocks Song Released

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For those of you that are just here to listen to our latest song release:

On the game development side, we've been continuing to develop the new menus, finalize the CD-Key system, and get the game fully functioning on the Mac. We know menus are boring, but they are a necessary evil that can actually break a game if done improperly. We'll be showing screenshots of each menu as it's implemented to allow you guys to give us some feedback, so that we don't overlook anything.

The CD-Key system(boring!) is case-sensitive, which would be a real pain to all of our players if we weren't going entirely digital distribution and/or if we didn't just implement a fully functioning paste system into our UI for that menu. It even intelligently recognizes if the CD-Key you're pasting has dashes in it or not. Not so boring now, is it? Okay, yes, it is, but I know you are excited that the pasting system has also been ported to the Mac version.

While we're on the subject, we've been porting every single detail of our Windows version into our Mac version. We had previously only done enough to get it running on the Mac, but we want to ensure that our Mac users are not missing a single thing that's available on Windows. We recently implemented full screen support, which is an obvious must for any game, but we also hooked up desktop resolution detection to allow the game to always run at your native resolution the first time it starts. Also, of note, we hooked up the Command+V option for pasting on Mac, which is a pathetic oversight I've encountered in a few games on the Mac(as if every Mac has a Ctrl key).

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Break Blocks Update

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Unfortunately, I don't have anything particularly cool to show you guys this time. In preparation for starting up the Early Adopters Program, we have been doing a ton of tedious paperwork this week. Of course, I can't ever entirely stop progress on the game, which is why we now have some more complex beat patterns in the game now. These won't appear until later in the game, though, because, as we figured, they really do make the game a lot more challenging.

Also, possibly of interest to some of you, we have chosen the charities that you'll be able to choose between, though this list may change:

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Break Blocks in Widescreen

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I just added custom resolution support for Break Blocks, including support for Widescreen resolutions and full screen ability. This is a seemingly very simple thing in most games, and is, consequently, hugely taken for granted. Before I rewrote the whole rendering system a couple of weeks ago, I knew it would be a huge bitch to get this working well, but in the new system, I was able to get this working in just a few hours in between races at the track this past weekend.

Before I get a bunch of questions, I race go karts with my father from time to time. We have CIK certified chassis running Rotax Max FR125 engines, which are capable of speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. We have no roll cage on them and no seat belts, either. It's a blast, but it's certainly dangerous =)

So, now that that's out of the way, here's a screen shot of the game running in widescreen:

Break Blocks in Widescreen

Origins of Greater Good Games and Break Blocks

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Lets jump into the way back machine for a second and start from the very beginning, just to make sure we don't miss anything. At 12 years old, after many years of playing games on the NES and SNES, I began to get curious about how video games were made. I had already been programming for a bit, so I researched a little and created a Pong clone! Ah, success! Well, not so much, because it was written in Visual Basic...and was a clone. So, after seeing Starcraft for the first time, I dug a little deeper and started learning DirectDraw and noticed that every tutorial out there was written in this alien language called C++. That's when I learned my first major programming lesson: friends don't let friends learn Visual Basic before a real programming language. The transition was frustratingly difficult, but I eventually wrapped my head around it. So, just getting started in real game development, I worked on a few projects with various people, but they never really got off the ground.

Soon after, I switched to OpenGL, learned the basics of 3D game development, and landed a contract job at 18 years of age for a now defunct company. After the contract ended, just before they shut down, I got a local job at another now defunct company, which knew even less about game development than the first company. After seeing these companies fail, I decided that I needed to get in the door at a more competent company, which meant I needed a degree. While in college, I couldn't help but start working on another little project of my own, which eventually became Break Blocks, but was then named Groove Blocks(and was being developed by like 4-8 people at any given time, none of which were musicians). Oddly enough, even though the game was hardly playable and didn't look professional at all, almost everyone working on that project used it as an example to get some form of a job in the game industry. I, of course, landed a job at a company that is now dead, but they at least seemed to know something about game development. Once they went kaput, I got another game development job, working on a Porno MMO, which is not exactly the highlight of my career, but it paid the bills for a few months. Oh, and big surprise, they are now defunct as well.

But, they gave me the big break I needed, inadvertently, because they took me to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. There I met the guys here at Tripwire Interactive. I have been working at Tripwire for nearly 4 years now and I must say that these guys are awesome! But, I had a dream as a kid, which I have to pursue while my body can still handle the sleep deprivation. So, I've been working on Break Blocks instead of sleeping for over a year now.

At first, it was just me, but I was lucky enough to run across an excellent artist trying to get into the game industry. He quickly replaced all the old unprofessional art with assets much more fitting to the game. I then found a awesome musician who befriended me because he was a fan of Killing Floor, which I worked on at Tripwire. I can't possibly express how lucky I feel to have met these 2 talented people who are making Break Blocks a reality in their spare time. Not to mention that, through Tripwire, I've added a highly experienced sound guy to the team, and learned more about successful game development, business, and marketing than I ever would have on my own. How lucky can one guy get?

As for the idea for Greater Good Games and charitable game development, that story's a bit shorter. We knew that we'd need to create an entity to put our game out on the market upon completion, but one day I realized that regardless of how successful the game is, we just want to keep making games, not get rich. So, I proposed the idea of giving every bit of extra money we can to charity to my artist/partner, who was completely receptive to the idea. So, if Break Blocks sells well, we get to continue making games, charities will receive large contributions, and our customers will know that they helped make the world a better place by simply playing video games. Everyone Wins!

So, that's my story. I believe some people in my position, with the same horrible employment history, would say they "deserve" to be at a company as awesome as Tripwire and to have Greater Good Games be successful, but, personally, I don't believe that anyone deserves anything just due to hard work or perseverance; any good fortune in our lives is somehow derived from luck. Whether its being born into a first world country, being born into a supportive or financially stable family, or interviewing for a job at the right company at the right time to fill the position. We are all lucky and I believe, despite some minor hardships I've encountered in my life, I am one of the luckiest people on earth to be able to make games for a living!

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