Virtual Reality

Academics // October 18, 2018

Four Freed-Hardeman University computer science majors and their instructor designed a virtual reality game that takes fun to new heights.

“Virtual reality is all the rage, and I wanted students to dip their feet into it,” Kenan Casey, computer science professor, said. “It’s the first game we’ve made in this department, and we’re excited to share it with everyone on campus.” During University Scholars Day and homecoming, students were able to experience the game.

After a few days of research during a mid-August, two-week, short course, Casey and his students: Andrew Hinson, a senior; Ethan McLaughlin, a senior; Robby Thompson, a senior and Keith Mattix, a junior, developed Flappy Frank, an agile, fast-flying bird that travels through various terrains to collect his lost marbles. To become Flappy Frank, a player will wear an Oculus headset and earphones and use hand controllers. To fly and to control speed, gamers must flap both arms up and down and position themselves to collide with the marbles. Experienced virtual gamers advance to higher levels where the terrain is difficult to navigate and the flight speeds increase. “Members designed levels that reflect their personalities,” Casey said.

On one advanced level hidden among the marbles is the ability to power up or collect more speed. Another advanced level is full of trees and appears impossible to navigate. “Looking at the finished game, I think it’s very cool what we made,” Thompson said. Casey and the students used Flappy Bird, the popular 2D side-scroller, as inspiration and reimagined it as a virtual reality experience.

“The students used the Unity 3D game engine, one of the premier game development frameworks, to create the game,” Casey said. “They wrote 500 to 600 lines of code, and the result is a fun and compelling game that represents an impressive combination of technical and design skills.”

Students received internship credit and gained experience working collaboratively on this major project with a firm deadline. “There’s no telling what we can do next,” Casey said.