For this competition, my team really wanted to build a small video game with some form of a real-world element. After looking through the available parts and sensors, our team landed on the idea of using an ultrasonic sensor to control player movement. To match this year's theme of "Retro," we implemented older technology in the game, hence the hot-air balloon and crop-duster planes. Putting these ideas together, we settled on this idea: a game where you control the rise and descent of a hot air balloon using a real-world model balloon.

What it does:

Our project is a game where you pilot a hot-air balloon using either keyboard controls or a small custom model, changing its elevation to dodge small planes flying through the air. The goal of the game is to rack up a high score, gaining points for every set of planes you pass.

How we built it:

The project is a unity game engine based desktop game that is both able to be controlled by normal controls or an Arduino based model. The model communicates to the game via serial communication, which is then interpreted by the player script to create movement. As you traverse through the level, enemies randomly spawn in front of you, along with an invisible scoring barrier. Contact with an enemy results in a "game over," whereas contact with a scoring barrier increments the current score. Highscores are saved automatically using unity's player-prefs system.

Challenges we ran into:

Obviously, the time constraint (24 hours) was a big challenge for us, with my team being completely new to hackathons, but we also faced issues with the implementation of the model controller. Our team is mildly experienced with using Unity, but the Arduino is a new concept for us, especially with the added challenge of having it interact with the Unity project.

Accomplishments that we're proud of:

The completion of this project was monumental for us. Not only was it our first time competing in a hackathon, but it was also our first time creating hardware to be used in a game. The product isn't perfect, but we are immeasurably proud of what we accomplished in the allotted time.

What we learned:

The biggest learning experience was discovering just what a hackathon is, with the time constraints, activities, networking, etc. It was a wonderful experience given the current global pandemic. We also learned more valuable skills to improve our future projects, such as serial communication, art-related techniques, basic game design, and more. And finally, we learned the value of a good plan. Had we created a better plan, our execution may have flown a little smoother. That being said, this was a wonderful growth opportunity and we look forward to future events like this one. Thank you!

What's next for The Okie Expedition:

My team plans to expand the game by adding more variations in the art, creating music and sound effects, adding a player select screen, and polishing the implementation of the model controller.

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