With the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, many students have suffered mentally from the recent lockdowns and isolation not allowing them to get a normal college experience. Even during the opening ceremony of this hackathon, we heard that freshman over at the University of Windsor hadn’t even gotten the chance to visit their campus yet. We found this very situation very unfortunate and wanted to create a solution to better the experience of college students. This inspired us to make a virtual reality experience where students can explore their campus (University of Windsor) and still remain safe at the same time.
What it does
offCampus is a multiplayer virtual reality experience (that runs on mobile, PC, and console) where students at the University of Windsor can join in and explore their campus with their friends in a safe, isolated environment. Each building is fully built out and is supposed to replicate a real-life experience on campus. Our replica features many popular places such as: Erie Hall, Lambton Tower, Lenny Library, the Java Lounge, and much more! And of course, many fun games including a scavenger hunt, basketball, and everyone's favorite: Lambton Tower Stair Climbing Simulator!
How we built it
We initially wanted to build offCampus using Unity. Although after looking through the software and realizing how inexperienced we are with the Unity software, we opted to use Roblox Studio instead. Using Google Earth’s view of the University of Windsor as our template, we rebuilt the campus within Roblox and ran a Roblox VR game. It was originally really tough trying to implement VR ourselves, we ran into a lot of hurdles trying to understand how to position and orient the player and their controls. Eventually, we opted to use an open-source VR module in the Lua programming language called NexusVR, which is created by Roblox game dev and software engineer, TheNexusAvenger. We still ended up needing to modify it so that we could let the player interact with minigames.
Challenges we ran into
We bit off a little too much than we could chew with this project. we originally wanted every building to be accessible with NPC crowds/boids bustling on the streets, but getting that done by the deadline was just unrealistic. Instead, we decided to focus only on the minigames and interiors of a select few buildings in order to demo our hack. We also wanted to add a racing minigame, but to get a control scheme to work with VR in such a short time frame would be impossible. Instead, we let every other platform drive except for VR and scrapped the minigame. Another challenge we ran into was keeping the campus in proper proportions. We originally started building out the VR world without comparing the sizes of the buildings to the player model and soon realized that we had built the world out of proportion. This unfortunately resulted in a lot of wasted time fixing and revamping our VR game. Another challenge we had is, we literally had no clue what the campus looked like, as we've never been to it. We had to base everything off photos and satellite photos which proved to be very difficult.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Some accomplishments that we’re proud of are creating a realistic, to-scale model of the University of Windsor campus and learning to work with a VR setup.
What we learned
Most of us had little to no experience in virtual reality or Roblox before creating this hack. This forced us to learn a lot of new concepts, frameworks, and functionalities when creating offCampus. First, when designing our Roblox game, we had to learn the basics of Roblox Studio, how to create 3-D models, and how to program in the Lua programming language. We also had to learn how to implement VR into our hack using Lua and NexusVR. Lastly we had to learn how to efficiently run our VR experience with Binary/Quad Tree Data Structures, Boid Flocking, and Scope Prioritization Skills.
What's next for offCampus
Given the short time frame of the Hackathon and the large task of recreating a virtual society, we struggled to accomplish everything in time. If were given more time and resources to create offCompus, we would do the following:
- Expand the replica of the University of Windsor beyond the block of the main campus
- Add in more activities and minigames
- Revise and/or add-on to the 3D modeling of the current buildings; add more detail
- Create a quest line that users can embark on
- Create a tour of the campus
- Add realistic crowds to fill up the empty space
In the future, we also plan to spread offCampus to other universities. COVID-19 is a global issue and its affecting college students all across the world, not just in Windsor. Therefore, we believe that offCampus can have a profound impact on college students around the globe.