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A profile of Destruk


PN co-founder
Destruk, the man and the myth.

© 2004 by tiltjlp, John L Patton

Destruk’s first game of pinball was an Atari 2600 back in 1979, and his love of the game hasn’t wavered yet. Brian discovered VP in March of either 2000 or 2001, when Tech Beta 3 had just been released. “I prefer games which are fun, obviously, and so I’ll concentrate on VPM for the most part. I used to download almost anything, but now I don’t bother with EMs or flipperless, and an original’s SS has to really grab my attention before I’ll give it a try. I enjoy games that are difficult to finish, with loads of rules, modes, and toys, the more the better. Games which have been tested by professional design teams using roms are best.”

Brian said that there are both pros and cons to working as part of a development team, as well as working solo. “The positive aspect is that each member of the team uses their specialized skill set, be it graphics, scripting, or gameplay, and this can result in awesome tables. The down side is disagreements on the methods or approach used in making a table, and waiting for one of the team to finish their part of the project. The worst case scenario is having a team member get upset and request that their work be removed from a table”.

“Working alone avoids all of that, so you pretty much end up with the table you envisioned. But then, since no one has all the skills needed to pull off the prefect table, you’ll have to settle, and make compromises. So I’d say, that quite often, the best VPM tables are team projects.”

Brian said that STTNG is his favorite of all the tables he has made, simply because it was the first VPM game he worked on. As for which one he considers his worst effort, he isn’t saying, and he says it’s impossible to point to one game as his best. “A lot of them are good, a few are even better, and luckily, only a very small number are just plain terrible.”

When I asked if he thought Originals were the wave of the future for VP, Destruk had his doubts. “Originals could be a salvation for VP, except that a lot of authors simply don’t put in the time and effort to do their best work. Some originals are outstanding without a doubt, but most lack too much.”

“As I’ve said, part of the trouble is that not enough time is used to perfect the layout and shot paths, but many authors don’t have the knowledge to do solo work. Even with scripting engines such as shivaEngine, and plenty of tutorials and tables to study and learn from, we see maybe 10 really good originals a year. I do appreciate their efforts, but more time and testing are what is lacking the most.”

“If people were compensated financially for their work, and if they were willing to put 8-12 months or longer designing, testing, and creating graphics and sounds from scratch, originals could really be a major force to contend with.”

Brian is a member of both VPF and shivaSite, and said that if he had to pick just one to be involved with, it would definitely be shivaSite. “There are more useful posts, and less I have to skip over because of arguments and debates. Plus shiva is an active and involved participant.”

Destruk says that his best table making skill is scripting, and getting the code to work properly with the roms. He doesn’t much care for working with graphics. When I asked for advice he might offer to other authors, Brian said, “before doing anything, find as much source material as possible, and collect material for games you aren’t considering, since it might not be available if you wait till later. I’ve lost more time than I can say simply re-aligning layouts when better graphics eventually show up, and I know of a lot of stalled and cancelled projects, because there are no graphics to be found.”

“Many pictures are online for only a short while, so if you do see something, save it, no matter what it is. You, or someone, might be able to use it later on. And have multiple backups of all your work, be it notes, drawings, charts, everything. If you plan to invest your time and energies in a project, nothing is worse than losing all your progress and source materials.”

Brian’s gone through four computers since he started using VP and VPM. His current beast is an Athlon XP 2200 with 512 MB of ram, and a GeForce fx 5500oc, the 128 MB one. He has 110 GB of HD space, with a mere 20 GB free. As for if he was a computer nerd or whiz, Destruk quipped that they probably were one in the same.

When I asked about who Brain Smith is, Destruk replied, “I’m 31 and live in San Diego, California. I have two jobs, the first one, in a gas stations, Whoopie!, pays the bills, and the second job, which is much more important, is working on these pinball games. I also bike a lot, 30 miles or so at a time, and I enjoy a good game of pool. I like exploring, so add hiking, fishing, and camping to the list. Given a choice between a restaurant I have been to, or a new one, I’ll go for the new experience any time. Hunting down rare games I might have missed, or finding a new machine on location is my idea of rewarding fun.”

“But as far as who Destruk really is, I’m overworked, underpaid, under-challenged at work, motivated, intelligent, efficient, plus idealistic. Cynical, ambitious . . . roll all that together and you’ll end up with someone doing a good job pretending to be me. But there’s a lot more me than just that. I think that the world and society are miles off the beaten path. The USA government too often, is helping those who seem able to help themselves. The fellow in Section 8 housing, (government subsidized reduced rent), will have a new car, nice clothes, and then will lose $4000 US each month at some local casino. But he still gets his EBT card, or Electronic Benefits Transfer card just like clockwork.”

“He has a home, a car, he even has pocket money, so why do our taxes help him get even more spending money. I see so many poor, homeless, unemployed people come into the gas station, usually to wash up. They collect pennies and cans, trying to save money to rent a room, living on $4 a day or less. They are denied benefits they need because they don’t have a mailing address. I could speak a lot more about how wrong real life often is, but maybe these games I make on my computer bring a bit of joy to others.”

I asked Destruk how it felt to be considered a VP super star or hero, but he didn’t think anyone really fits that description. “I don’t think about it much. I guess it feels about the same as being any other kind of superstar. It’s nice to be listened to or to get some respect from others, but I’m the same guy I was before people noticed me . . . just a little smarter, I hope.”

And finally, I asked Brian what he would do when there were no more VPM tables to work on. He said he doubts that time will ever come about. “But if by some miracle my VPM work would actually be complete, I’d probably start work on a couple of VP originals I have in the back of my mind.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Brian Smith, aka Destruk. If he isn’t one of VP very few VIPs then there are no VIP’s here in the VP community. If anyone can honestly say that Destruk hasn’t helped them in some small way, they would have to be a first day newbie. Thanks Destruk, from all of us.


Pinball Wizard
No more vpm tables to work on? Not very likely scenario I suppose. There's _always_ something we can improve.

Great to read more about Brian. I think we all rediscovered our "spark" to VP and VPM lately, I hope Brian's still got it. He's one of the most important people in vp. Now that Randy returned and is fixing the bugs and new VPM is coming... there aren't many clouds in vp heaven right now. Things are looking great indeed.


PN co-founder
Not by me, since I don't think he trusts me. But there is one in Q&A form at VP Originals. Well worth the read. I am considering doing a series of parody profiles on folks who have turned me down. Glad you all like this one, it's the one I really did want to do, since I think Brian is the perfect example of what is Right with VP.



Pinball Nudger
Indeed a great profile. Brian has certainly been a great help to me over the past few months, and has proven time and again what a great talent he is, and I dare say a great friend, too. Say, San Diego isn't too far away from Sacramento, is it? Hope to see ya soon Brian.