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Feature: 'Breaking Down Breakout'

It might surprise you to learn how much there is to know about Breakout-style brick-bustin' games?, and in this exclusive feature, LEGO Bricktopia level designer Mark Nelson offers
August 21, 2007
How much is there to learn about Breakout-style brick-bustin' games? A heck of a lot, according to LEGO Bricktopia level designer Mark Nelson, who has written possibly the definitive genre overview for Gamasutra, complete with design specifics, interviews, and much more. But what games laid the foundation for this storied genre and its “paddle & ball” gameplay? As Nelson explains, sometimes credit inappropriately laid at the feet of Nolan Bushnell’s Pong: “Breakout, Arkanoid, and just about every “paddle & ball vs. blocks” videogame you can name have roots that go back as early as 1967, when Ralph Baer designed the Magnavox Odyssey game system and the paddle controller. One of the seminal games for this system included a “paddle & ball” game mechanic, making it the great-granddaddy of the Breakout genre (many mistakenly assume the paddle & ball game mechanic originated with Nolan Bushnell’s Pong, Atari, 1972). Years later, Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (of Apple fame) took paddle & ball game play a step further when they designed and developed Breakout (Atari, 1976). This was the first game to include the “paddle & ball vs. blocks” game mechanic integral to subsequent games in the Breakout genre. In 1986 the Breakout-style game took a radical leap forward when Sega released Gigas and Gigas Mark II, games which introduced innovations such as: rich graphical backgrounds, power-ups, and falling objects which the player must avoid. That same year Taito/Romstar muscled into Breakout territory with the release of Arkanoid. Although a later arrival than Gigas, Arkanoid is possibly the most popular game of the genre, and the one which most notably defines the “paddle & ball vs. blocks and other stuff” game play we know today.” You can now read the complete feature, include an exhaustive look at the timeless video game genre pioneered by titles such as Breakout, and expanded on by more contemporary efforts such as BreakQuest and Magic Ball 3 (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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