Virtual reality game built by IUPUI students challenges players to escape from Breakout High
November 15, 2019
(Contributed by Rich Schneider, originally published May 8, 2019)
Gamers in Indianapolis have a new virtual world to play in, one built by a team of IUPUI media arts and science students where players must use their puzzle-solving wits to escape the clutches of a villain who has locked them inside a school.
The game, “Breakout High,” is available for play at BlueWall VR, a virtual reality arcade at 5967 E. 82nd St. in Castleton.
After donning a VR headset, players find they have been locked inside a classroom in Breakout High by the villainous Mr. Jack. Players escape from a series of locked rooms, and eventually the school, by solving puzzles.
The students developed the game as part of a team-driven project-based learning course, N420 Multimedia Project Development. The student team was paired with BlueWall VR as a client, said Joshua Kottka, who led the student team as product manager.
“They wanted a VR game, so we met with them for a couple of weeks to brainstorm ideas about what type of game we should develop,” Kottka said. “We eventually narrowed it down to a puzzle-solving game, like an escape room.”
“I think we were all pretty excited to work on a virtual reality game,” Kottka said. “Virtual reality and augmented reality games are still not quite as popular as other types of video game genres, but they are new and emerging. The really interesting thing about virtual reality is that it is still super-new.”
Jonathan Renninger, who served as lead programmer, said learning the ins and outs of virtual reality programming was the most interesting part of the project. “I had to do a lot of research and learn how to program that kind of stuff,” he said.
That included designing puzzles that lead a player from one step to the next, such as a bookcase on which books have to be placed in a certain order, Renninger said.
“Breakout High” may be the first game Kottka and Renninger developed for a client, but it won’t be their last.
After he graduates from IUPUI May 11, Kottka said, he will be applying for internships at gaming studios around the country: “That’s really my goal after graduation, making more games and stuff.”
He believes his work on “Breakout High” will give him a leg up on that quest. “This will definitely help. For a year, I was project manager for ‘Breakout High.’ So I have that to put on my resume.”
Renninger, who is also graduating, hopes his experience developing “Breakout High” will burnish his portfolio. “It also helped me learn a bit more about how to work with a client. So I hope further on down the line this will help me deal with clients and with programming for other games in the future.”