Orbital Decay


For my senior thesis project for my studies at UCSD, I set out to build a working ‘battlemech’ cockpit, complete with control panels, joysticks, pedals, and surround sound system, as well as code my own simulation to run in it. The project took two quarters of school (about six months total). The first three months were mostly spent building the cockpit, and the second three were spent mostly coding the simulation in C# through the Unity game development engine.┬áTotal new materials cost in the ballpark of $1,000, not including existing materials I had laying around the garage and my own desktop computer that I ran the rig with.

This project was intense due to the fact that I was more or less basically banking my future on it. I chose to live off of my savings for the duration of the project so I could pour my heart and soul into this thing for six months straight. The intention was being able to present it as a sort of physical ‘business card’ that I could present as a sort of ‘magnum opus’ culmination of all of my abilities from coding to fabrication. I like to think of myself as a “generalist,” so I needed a project that spanned across several disciplines.

Long story short, the gamble paid out. My professor/advisor for the project was Sheldon Brown, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD. At first he was skeptical when one of his students said he wanted to basically ‘make a video game and an (impossible-to-complete-alone-in-six-months) simulator box, but a few weeks before the end of the project I was showing him the progress I had made on the simulation side and he simply offered me a job working at the Experimental Game Lab at UCSD.

I have since decided to retire the cockpit but continue working on the simulation/video game with my friend and business partner Morgan Lair. The target is a stand-alone game, which I am titling Orbital Decay. I found during the project’s development that the best way to get the game and the cockpit to agree with each other was to basically simulate the cockpit inside the game, complete with buttons, switches, and displays, and then have the inputs from the cockpit controls simply control the simulated controls in the game. What resulted was a surprisingly effective and enjoyable mouse-and-keyboard controlled ‘mech simulator that was actually a whole hell of a lot of fun to play around with. So, I’ve been working on making the game a full-fledged PC title.

A working web-play demo will go here soon!


As requested by my friends at /diy/, please enjoy this raw album of development photos!