When Connor Haynes decided to pursue a degree in computer science at West Virginia University he never dreamed that he would one day be developing video games, let alone running his own company. Now in his senior year, Haynes is celebrating the release of Perspectrum, a two-dimensional side-scrolling puzzle-platform game produced by his company, Proud Mom Games.
Perspectrum was released on August 9, by Vandalia Softworks, a Morgantown-based interactive entertainment publishing company owned by Jordan Hallow, a WVU alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation and a minor in computer science.
In the game, players assume the role of the Tall Stranger, a being who has awakened with the power to use ancient fountains to change the elements of the world. The stranger must use spirit fragments scattered throughout the various levels to bring the mountain back to life.
Perspectrum is the first game fully developed under Proud Mom Games, a company created by Haynes in 2016, after discovering a new passion for creating video games.
“I didn't even come here with the intent to learn how to make games,” said Haynes, a Cross Lanes native. “I joined the WVU Game Developers Club my freshman year. When I first showed up I realized that the members weren't experts or anything, yet they were still making games. After learning a few skills from them I found that I really enjoyed it.”
Being involved in the student organization motivated Haynes to refine his skills and he set out on a quest to teach himself how to build games from start to finish. He approached the challenge with a “learn by doing” attitude and started following online tutorials to learn how to code and use programming software. Within a few weeks, he was creating his own games.
His first release was a simple arcade-style game called Hugs. In the game, two players run toward each other while navigating through obstacles to try and embrace before the game clock runs out. Since its Internet debut, the game page has been visited more than 900 times.
Excited to continue upon the success of Hugs, Haynes launched his company and began developing Perspectrum in 2016. He partnered with Gabby Dumire, a graphic design student in the College of Creative Arts whom he met through the WVU Game Developers Club, so that she could create the game’s art while he developed things on the back end.
“I knew early on that I needed to bring on other people to help with the project,” said Haynes, “in part because of their skillsets but also largely because I needed to be held accountable and stay motivated. Early on it was enough to just sit and work on a game that I thought was cool, but that passion gave way to perseverance and determination.”
For Haynes, finding balance between working on the video game and his engineering studies was not always easy. Being a self-taught programmer certainly came with added challenges but also some unexpected benefits.
“One major challenge of developing a game as a student is that you most likely don’t know how to do all the things you set out to do,” explained Haynes. “I learned a whole lot while programming Perspectrum, and was surprised when many of the things I taught myself wound up being taught later in class. It definitely gave me a leg up in my classes.”
Although developing Perspectrum while in college was difficult, Haynes says the experience was overall a positive one that has inspired him to pursue video game development as a career after graduating in December.
To celebrate the completion of Perspectrum, Haynes will be hosting a launch event at the WVU Rec Center on Friday, August 24, from 6-9 p.m. Attendees will have the chance to play Perspectrum and meet the game’s development team. The event is free and open to the entire WVU community. For more information or to RSVP visit https://www.facebook.com/events/667595500269363/.