April 15, 2017 Student Spotlight: Holly Hudson
Holly Hudson

The Playcrafting class came at just the right time for me.  For about seven months I had been trying to teach myself game development in Unreal Engine from scratch, and it was time to get some fundamentals down.

I was inspired to try game development by a demo event for the HTC Vive that I went to.  I had never before encountered a system that felt truly immersive to me, but the Vive completely blew me away and I had to order one.  I immediately started trying to create worlds and games for it.  It was surprisingly easy to get started, and bugs in VR are immensely entertaining.  Eventually my lack of a good foundation started to catch up with me.  I had VR versions of two retrogames in the works, Breakout and Space Invaders, but I was getting more and more frustrated by problems arising from not knowing how to properly organize my code in Unreal.

In the Unreal class I learned how to create a HUD, select objects, manage inventory, and create simple interactive animations like opening and closing doors, in addition to learning how the overall architecture of my code should be structured.  I immediately started refactoring the code in my two VR games to incorporate what I was learning.  I created a ball-dispenser for my Breakout game, integrated timelines into my code for flashing effects, and added leveling up into the game flow.

For the final part of the class we worked on our own projects.  I decided to do a first person exploration game that I could later transform into a VR game.  Some of my favorite VR experiences have involved just being immersed in another time or place, including standing among the Terracotta Warriors in a museum, exploring the Colosseum in Rome via Google Earth, and walking through a living version of a Van Gogh painting.  I knew the Rijksmuseum provided high-res scans of their art free to use, so I decided to incorporate some paintings into a museum experience/matching game.  Having an experienced Unreal developer on hand to answer questions while I was working on the project was immensely helpful.

The VR version of the game is up on itch.io: https://hollyhudson.itch.io/museum-explorer-vr

And the Breakout game is also available on github: https://github.com/hollyhudson/breakout

My website can be found at http://hollyhudson.net/

Quick Questions

1. How did you get into games?

I’ve played video games for as long as I can remember. Growing up we had an Atari, then a Commodore 64, then a Nintendo, and my father bought a lot of games for us because he was into gaming. I first learned to program in basic on the Commodore, and have memories of typing in programs from Compute magazine.

2. You’re part of the first manned mission to Mars! You’ll be gone for
5 years and can only bring 3 games to play alone or with your 3 fellow
astronauts. What are they?

I love couch co-op games, so definitely Borderlands. And in VR, Tilt Brush and Fantastic Contraption.

3. What would be your dream game to build?

Someone has created a lovingly detailed VR simulation of the Enterprise from Star Trek TNG, and I have to confess that I would love to build a game around that.

4. What do you love best about the game community in NYC?

Most of my interactions with the game community in NYC have been with Code Liberation and small diversity in gaming conferences, and I love how supportive and creative the community is.

5. Choose 5 words to describe your experience making games so far.

Absorbing, frustrating, surprising, revelatory, triumphant.