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Virtual reality game built by IUPUI students challenges players to escape Breakout High

May 8, 2019

Description of the following video:

[Words appear in upper-left corner: IUPUI presents]

[Video: A student puts on a virtual reality headset. He is in a dark room. The next scene is a clip of what the student is seeing with his VR headset on. He is in a 3D classroom and is trying to escape from the room. An empty teacher’s desk and empty student desks are shown. The person playing the game picks up an apple from the teacher’s desk and throws it toward the student desks. This causes all of the desks to fall to their sides.]

Jonathan Renniger, a School of Informatics and Computing student, speaks in voiceover: The premise of the game, “Breakout High,” is that you are a character who has been trapped in a classroom. You don’t know why or how you’re there, just that you’re trapped there by an evil guy named Mr. Jack.

[Video: Renniger appears on camera.]

[Words appear: Johnathan Renniger, School of Informatics and Compugting student.]

Renniger speaks: And your goal is to unlock puzzles to unlock the key to get out of the rooms …

[Video: More footage from the VR game is shown. The player finds a key on a countertop and picks it up.]

Renniger speaks in voiceover: … to basically find out how to get out of the school.

[Video: The same student is seen playing the VR game. He is wearing a VR mask and is in front of a green screen. Later two students, including Joshua Kottka, another School of Informatics and Computing student, are seen looking at a computer screen.]

Kottka speaks in voiceover: There’s the New Media N420 class, which is Zeb Wood’s project-development course. Our group was formed …

[Video: Kottka appears on camera.]

[Words appear: Joshua Kottka, School of Informatics and Computing student]

Kottka speaks: … and BlueWall was our client. They wanted their own virtual reality game, and so in the first couple weeks of the semester, it was just meeting with them …

[Video: The same student is seen playing the VR game. He is wearing a VR mask and is in front of a green screen. He is holding two controllers in his hands. He bends over to pick something up. Later, the game is shown, and viewers can see he was picking up a key in the game. He uses the key to get out of a room. A door opens, letting him into another area of the school.]

Kottka speaks in voiceover: … brainstorming ideas for a game because they didn’t really know what they wanted. A lot of themes were thrown around, but then eventually we narrowed it down to a puzzle-solving game. BlueWall Virtual Reality is located in Castleton on 82nd Street.

[Video: Kottka appears on camera.]

Kottka speaks: Very early May, the game will be available at BlueWall …

[Video: A close-up of VR controllers. The student is holding one in his hand. Then a close-up of his face is shown, wearing the VR mask. He is standing, spinning around in a circle.]

Kottka speaks in voiceover:… but the game is essentially going to be there forever.

[Screen goes to black]

[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: IUPUI]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear:]


Breakout High interview

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.”

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