Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

Interview: Fèlix Casablancas, BreakQuest

Saturday, June 24th, 2006 by Matthew in Interviews

Fèlix Casablancas, creator of the best Breakout game of all time, BreakQuest, was kind enough to field a Fun-Motion interview. He covers the project’s inspiration, favorite BreakQuest level, his creative process and his future plans. Thanks again to Fèlix for his time!

Fun-Motion: First of all, thanks for taking time out of your day for this interview! It’s always great to hear from developers themselves about their projects.

Fèlix: I’m happy to answer the questions.

Fun-Motion: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to create a physics-based breakout game? Was your initial concept based on physics, or was that something that came about later?

Fèlix: I always liked breakout games, but I wanted one were you could feel in control so I thought about it and got the idea that a physics engine plus ‘advanced’ geometry (spline like bumper) would do it. There are too many breakout games out there so without this innovation I wouldn’t have done another one.

BreakQuest has a very demo scene-like quality to its visuals. Have you been involved in the demo scene, or did it motivate the look and feel of the game?

I was never involved but I loved them, I was always looking for the next demo and watched it over and over again, they were just amazing and wondered how could someone do that, finally was able to make a few effects but never published anything. So I guess they influenced the game look but would say that what inspired me were the games made during the golden age of Atari ST and Amiga computers.

What was the timeline like on BreakQuest’s development? Were you able to work on it full-time at any point, or was it a part-time effort?

It was part time during a year but then quitted my job and devoted to it full time, I was expecting about a year more but took two years full time.

The obvious follow-up question–how have sales been? I know it popped into some of the casual portal top 10 lists. Has income from BreakQuest allowed you to work full-time on game development (I suppose I should ask if you even want to work full-time on games)?

From the beginning my idea was to work on independent game development full time. I had this dream for many years, and reached a point were had some savings and could live cheap (no children nor mortgage) so I had to try, and yes, it worked, income from the game is more than enough for me, probably I couldn’t raise a big family with just that, but today is not easy to raise a family with just one salary. Currently I’m ‘just’ working in the next game.

Speaking of your next game–I’ve heard that it’s much more of a typical color-matching casual game. Is that accurate? Any chance of a BreakQuest sequel, or physics treatments to other classic genres?

You’re right, the next game is a color-matching game, but the matching rules and the board are different than anything you’ve seen (at least I haven’t seen anything like that), think portals will like this one better than BreakQuest. After this one is made I think I’ll get back to arcade games, probably with physics. About a BreakQuest sequel, maybe in the long term but don’t really know.

Each stage in BreakQuest was custom-created. How long did it take to create a new stage, and what was that creative process like?

When you have the physics (springs, ropes, movement …) and advanced geometry and start thinking about it you’ll get a few ideas, while implementing them you’ll have more, the more you work the more ideas you have as you start to mix what you’ve done before. Time for a stage is very variable as you may spend two days thinking about what can you do next and get nothing (at the end it was really difficult), but then some new twist pops in your head and you can get three or four levels in a snap. At the end I spent one year with the engine and one with the levels design and implementation, but of course had a bunch of ideas when working on the engine and even before.

One of my favorite things about BreakQuest is the audio responses in the levels. Was audio creation integrated into the creative process for creating a level, or was it something you kind of added after a level was playable?

The audio and particle effects were the last things I made for each level, when the level was finished I would try to work out some sounds and particle effects that mixed well with it.

What’s your favorite level in BreakQuest?

Don’t really have one, but I think level 55 is a nice candidate for my favorite level, this was the first one I made and spent lots of hours playing it while crunching the bugs of the engine. After one year of working the engine, having a level you can play was amazing. This level also shows the power of the physics engine, without the physics you can’t even think about doing something like that.

What are some of the level concepts you had worked on but decided against? I’m curious to know which level ideas you tried that just didn’t work out for some reason or another.

I had some ideas that were too difficult to play, like you had to put the ball in this small hole with this angle to reach that small brick, but they were rapidly discarded. Also would like to have harder and more responsive springs but the physics engine integration speed limits that and also limits the number of bricks you can pile or join with ropes and springs.

You used a 2D dynamics library, but had to implement collision detection and response yourself. Why did you take this approach? Did you look at other physics engines (particularly 3D)? What made you decide to use DynaMo?

DynaMo is a 3D engine, but tweaked it a little to work in 2D, yep looked at some other engines but DynaMo was developed as a physics thesis so the technical documentation was very good and I had to understand what was going under the hood. Couldn’t find anything that suited my needs for collision detection so I had to code my own routines (probably the hardest part of the development).

Do you play many other physics games? Any favorites?

Don’t play much lately, but I’ve been hooked by the Gran Turismo games.

Finally, what inspires you to create games (influences, all-time favorite titles, etc)?

I’ve been playing computer games since I was a child, I love them and just think in what games would I like to play, mostly based in the experiences I had during the 80’s and 90’s, today’s big multimillion dollar games are way too involved for a one man team, also most modern games require too much from the player and most people don’t have the time or skills required to really enjoy them.

Thanks again for your time!

Thanks for your website, and take care with that monocycle you ride.

Download BreakQuest Demo (20 MB) [Fun-Motion BreakQuest Review]

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4 Responses to 'Interview: Fèlix Casablancas, BreakQuest'

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  1. Dosou said,

    on June 24th, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    xD He mentions the monocycle. Awesome. Anyways, I can tell this game took about 2 years full time from the amount of detail and uniqueness in each of the levels. Great interview.

  2. Segadult said,

    on June 25th, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    I want to know how he was able to get Maniacs of Noise to do the soundtrack! How did that come about? A paid license? Cut of the profits? Buddy friendship gift?

  3. fluffy bunny said,

    on June 25th, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Cool interview, good to see BreakQuest is a success. I own the boxed version, actually :)

    The game is really nice – probably the most enjoyable game of its type since Megaball 4, and the only modern Arkanoid-clone I’ve been even remotely interested in buying. Thanks to the imaginative level design, it’s easily worth the money, as each level has something that makes it unique and memorable.

    Also, the great music by Maniacs of Noise deserves a mention. MoN are some of my favourite computer musicians (and have been ever since I played Cybernoid 1 & 2 on my C64), and there’s some really nice tunes in BreakQuest.

  4. Alex said,

    on June 26th, 2006 at 3:48 am

    Many MoN tunes (including the tunes used in BreakQuest) are available from their web site. In fact, Drax didn’t know they were used in BreakQuest, and when he found out he was perfectly happy with it. Nice to hear such things :)

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