If ‘Pokémon Go’ got more of us exploring outside with our smartphones, a new racing app is hoping to revolutionise the way we interact with the world around us.
Developed by students on Birmingham City University’s Gamer Camp and Interactive Entertainment courses, the app – ‘Xtreme Drone Racing Micro’ – uses geo-tagging technology to unlock tracks set in digital versions of real world locations.
At the game’s official launch today (Tuesday 23 August), the Android title featured two iconic Birmingham locations; Millennium Point, at the heart of the University’s City Centre Campus, and Cathedral Square, which is known locally as ‘Pigeon Park’. On the latter track, gamers can weave around a digital recreation of St Philip’s Cathedral whilst dodging a squadron of Spitfires – famously made in the City during the Second World War.
However, in order to race on these tracks, gamers must be physically present in the real world locations the tracks represent, similar to players visiting a PokéStop or Gym in ‘Pokémon Go’. As well as tracks, vehicle modifications and power ups are unlocked at certain locations in the new game.
Alongside the tablet game, the programmers, artists and producers at Birmingham City University have also developed a PlayStation 4 version – ‘Xtreme Drone Racing’ – as part of their studies. Unlike a traditional University course, Gamer Camp and Interactive Entertainment students build real games from the ground up, operating in a studio environment over one year.
50 students have spent three months on the PlayStation 4 game, with the tablet version being delivered in just six weeks. To put this in to context, most console games within the industry are developed in 12 to 24 months, with three to six months devoted to gaming apps on average.
‘Xtreme Drone Racing’ was launched earlier in Birmingham City University’s £62 million Parkside Building. Students showcased both versions of the game to gaming industry professionals, including developers from Sony, Codemasters and Rare.
Luke Savage, Senior Academic Development Manager, Sony Interactive Entertainment was one of the industry-backers at today’s event. He said:
“Gamer Camp works closely with PlayStation First, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s global academic program, to give students the cutting edge game development skills that modern game studios are hungry for.
“These students are the next generation of PlayStation game developers, and we want to give them the best opportunities to become part of our developer community.”
Gamer Camp was one of the first five courses in Europe to be given PlayStation 4 development kits by Sony.
Both these games allow players to experience the high-speed world of drone racing, which is becoming increasingly popular in the physical world. The sport sees participants race drones around rollercoaster-like aerial circuits, with pilots monitoring their vehicles’ position through virtual reality headsets, which display a feed from a camera at the front of the drone.
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships took place in New York and was broadcast live on ESPN for the first time. Meanwhile, in March, British teenager Luke Bannister, who was 15 at the time, won $250,000 when he came first in the World Drone Prix in Dubai.
The students behind the app version of ‘Xtreme Drone Racing Micro’ staged their own mini tournament with real drones earlier at the launch and they hope that their game will encourage people to get-together and race socially, just like pilots do in the fringe sport.
Bharat Trivedi, Technical Director at Red Bee worked with the students during the development stages. He said:
“I’m always blown away by the quality of work produced by the students on this course and the ‘Xtreme Drone Racing’ project is no exception. The milestone presentations were very professional, with a clear breakdown of project status and remaining action items.
“I’ve been particularly impressed with the integration of the geo-tagged gameplay elements, as this is currently a hot area in the world of interactive media. All the students and staff alike should be very proud of their efforts.”
Prospective students who are interested in enrolling on the Gamer Camp and Interactive Entertainment courses are being invited along to the University’s Undergraduate Open Day on Saturday 8 October, where visitors will get the chance to play ‘Xtreme Drone Racing’ for themselves.
The tablet version of the game will also be available to download for free later this year via Google Play.