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By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Many college students spend their free time parked in front of the television playing video games.
Software engineering students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney take this hobby a step further.
Several computer science majors designed their own video games for the course, proving some final projects can be all fun and games.
“I’ve always been a big fan of interactive software and games,” said Jared Graham, a sophomore from Fort Collins, Colorado, who created “The Road to Nowhere” using the Unity game development platform.
His game, for computers and mobile devices, challenges users to navigate a vehicle along a busy two-lane road.
The concept is simple – collect points by not crashing – but that’s complicated by accelerating speeds that make swerving the heavy traffic increasingly difficult.
“Eventually it gets too fast to play,” said Graham, who kept the game pretty basic by limiting the controls to a single screen tap to change lanes.
“Initially, I tried making it a bit more complicated, but that didn’t work out,” he said.
Graham, who spent more than 30 hours on the project, might make “The Road to Nowhere” available through a mobile store, but it needs some work first.
“You don’t want the world to see your baby until it’s absolutely perfect,” he said.
The Blue and Gold Scholarship recipient enjoys the creative aspect of designing video games, but hasn’t decided which direction he’d like his career to go. An internship next semester with the creative team at The Buckle will help determine those plans.
“If that turns out well, I’d probably like to pursue software engineering as a career,” Graham said.
Alex Hinkle is another lifelong video game fan studying computer science at UNK. His father, a U.S. Army veteran and police officer, was a beta tester for the original “America’s Army” game.
“I played a lot of video games with him when I was a kid,” said Hinkle, a senior from North Platte.
His final project was inspired by the popular multiplayer survival game “Fortnite.”
Hinkle’s version, called “Battle Royale,” resembles an early “Doom” as the first-person character searches a wooded landscape for weapons and ammunition. There are three main opponents to defeat, with a horde of zombies adding to the challenge.
“They come at you and attack you at a pretty fast pace,” said Hinkle, who still has some minor bugs to fix to keep the enemies engaged.
Hinkle, a criminal justice minor, is on track to graduate in December, when he’ll likely pursue a career in either video game development or something security-related.
“I’d really like to go into video game development,” he said.
UNK sophomore Jacob Nutter is more interested in developing apps for Apple devices. His final project uses augmented reality to turn any space into a racetrack.
The technology, which adds computer-generated images to real-world surroundings, builds a track visible on an iPhone screen then adds a racecar controlled by the device. Nutter might enhance the virtual remote-controlled car by adding coins to collect and introducing collisions.
The Geneva native is considering a career in mobile app development because the possibilities are nearly endless.
“The user base is just massive. Everyone has a phone,” he said. “They can do so much.”