BreakAway Games Austin (2004-2006)

Tikrit 24Blue
I interviewed for what I thought was an Executive Producer position in their Hunt Valley, Maryland office. After two days of interviews and meetings, Doug Whatley asked me if I'd be willing to open a BreakAway Games studio right in Austin, Texas. I could hardly believe it - and the studio opened a few weeks later. Our mission was to hire an experienced console team, and pitch original IP game ideas to publishers. While we were searching for that AAA game deal, the development team would work on internal projects for BreakAway.

BreakAway was more than just a game studio - they were a serious game studio. They repurposed technologies and development practices to create light simulations for the government, the military, and other clients. Austin was assigned to create a visualization for a driving simulator for Lockheed Martin - and they sent us about 90Gb of data that was a satelitte model for Tikrit, Iraq. We took that and made a game out of it - and got our first look at Gamebryo from Emergent. Our artists loved it, and our programmers loved it too.

We also had the chance to work with the United States Navy. Our job was to create a realistic simulation of the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. When the Navy told us we'd get the chance to visit a real carrier - we never thought it would be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Four of us were flown out, experienced a trapped landing in the belly of a very small cargo plane the Navy calls a "Flying Coffin", and spent four days on board. We were even allowed to be on deck during flight operations! You haven't lived until you've had your whiskers burnt off from the jet exhaust of an F-14 Tomcat.

The final serious games project we worked on was truly special - it was a project designed to distract children undergoing painful medical procedures like dialysis. It turns out that kids playing a computer game are less aware of pain, and can therefore take less pain medication and still be comfortable! How often does a game developer get to do that ?

We were also constantly working on new game ideas. Our Creative Director, Jordan Thomas, spent nearly every hour in the studio working on new game pitches. Jordan spent two years working on ideas, presenting to publishers, reacting to their feedback, and doing it all without compromising his creativity. I was there right alongside, preparing development plans, reacting to publisher diligence, and making valuable contacts.

In the end, BreakAway had to consolidate their operations back to Hunt Valley. Their serious games business was booming, and they needed to invest heavilly in a new simulations platform called Mosbe. They closed the Austin studio in November 2006.