Jaben McCormack and Sarathi Hansen are computer science students who have spent the past semester working in collaboration on a virtual reality horror game for the Oculus, titled Sight: A VR Horror Experience. They will present their work on Friday in the computer zone at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. Outside of the classroom, McCormack, from New York City, is a resident advisor in Carlton Gibson Hall and the treasurer for the RIT Nine Gates Mahjong Club. Hansen, from Sullivan County, N.Y., volunteers at events for the Chinese Language Department and tutors peers.
Question: What brought you to RIT?
Jaben: Honestly, it was love at first sight. When I was first applying to colleges, I talked with some of my upperclassmen friends, and one of them suggested that I visit them on this campus. Once I visited, I immediately clicked with all the students I met and was unable to imagine myself going to any other school.
Sarathi: Back when I was 18-years-old, various people told me that RIT was a great school and that I should visit the campus. The moment I arrived, I realized how nice all the students and faculty were, and the campus felt like an extremely comfortable place to live during my upcoming college life.
Q: What prompted the two of you to get involved with Imagine RIT?
Jaben: One of my many hobbies is creating games. I enjoy seeing the expressions on other people's faces as they play the games I make. Imagine RIT is a place with lots of people we could introduce our game to, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to present this game we were making. But this isn't the first time I’ve participated in an exhibit for Imagine RIT. Back in 2013, I assisted the RIT Metalworks Club with an exhibit where we taught visitors how to make jewelry out of chainmaille rings. That previous experience showed me how amazing this festival is and how everybody should do whatever they can to make it an enjoyable experience.
Sarathi: I enjoy creating fun and interesting projects in my free time, and I first had the opportunity to participate in Imagine RIT last year. For Imagine RIT 2016, a classmate and I continued work on a computer vision class project that we had developed the semester before. That experience showed me just how fun Imagine RIT can be and how much excitement we can derive in other people with what we create. This year, my friend Jaben and I collaborated together on a VR game, so we decided it would be a great idea to showcase what we were able to create this semester.
Q: What can people expect from your exhibit?
Jaben: An immersive experience of being bound to a wheelchair in an abandoned haunted amusement park. Hopefully everybody who plays our game will enjoy it.
Sarathi: A thrilling experience of exploring a spooky amusement park where you don’t know what might be right behind you…
Q: How much time went into your project, and how did you conceptualize it?
Jaben: We have been working on this project since the start of the semester. We knew that we wanted to produce a virtual reality game but did not know what theme we wanted it to have.
After many discussions, it came to our attention that most VR games lacked a sense of immersion because the player was unable to actually move without a controller. This is when we realized that it made the most sense to have the player be wheelchair-bound and that we would produce a horror game.
Sarathi: Although we have both been very busy this semester, we spent as much time as we could each week coming up with ideas via researching other popular horror and VR games, learning how to create 3D models, which we both had never done before, and implementing the experience that we wanted the player to go through. A large portion of the project consisted of testing the game and tweaking how it looked or acted in order to produce our final vision for the game.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Imagine RIT?
Sarathi & Jaben: We can’t wait to see everyone’s reactions to our VR horror game and we really hope they enjoy the experience.
Q: What are your plans following your graduation from RIT?
Jaben: My plans are super exciting. This is going to be the first time in the past five years where I have a vacation longer than two weeks, so I plan on taking full advantage of it. I’m going to travel to as many unique places I can and then I’m going to move to Boston and start my career as a software engineer.
Sarathi: I plan to begin working in a field related to one or more of several areas of study in computer science that I enjoy. These include game design and development, programming language theory, computer graphics, computer vision and machine learning.
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