Logo: University of Southern California

GamePipe Laboratory Fields Its Seventh Demo Day

Platforms range from PC's to Apple iPhones to a repurposed pinball machine
Eric Mankin
December 17, 2008 —

If it's the end of a semester, it's time for USC student game designers to show off their work for industry reps.

US VS THEM: Online game developed jointly between the Serious Games & Networked Games courses.
Attending the fall, 2008 demonstration of student built games were representatives of 17 different companies, including Electronic Arts, Activision, Blizzard, Sony Online Entertainment, THQ, Microsoft Game Studios, Disney, Naughtydog, Zynga, Nokia, Zero G Games, Applied Minds, Seven Studios, Big Stage, Emsense, Apple and Creative Artists Agency.

Apple iPhone games were prominent, including iLiveHere, a social gaming experience, iWorms, and Super Finger Kart, an in-theater, bumper car game for play by audience members as pre-show entertainment. Two Microsoft XNA games were exhibited, including Wheel-e, an aggressive wheelchair, murderball-like experience, and Artemis Chronicle, a beautiful action-adventure title demonstrating the powerful features of the USC GamePipe developed NitroX engine, a revolutionary, complete development framework for creating XNA games.

Us versus Them paid homage to Los Angeles area 1950s diners and invading space aliens with an online game experience from the USC GamePipe Laboratory’s ColdWarGames Division (it even had a cute code name, Fist-Full-of-Diners).  Super Happy Flut Flut Smash Game: Moar Gibz Edition showed a four-player battle between flapping dinosaurs in a dangerous environment. Fighting Nemo showed a J2ME mobile phone game where the big fish eats the small fish and where you can buy your own henchmen!

PetPal, a sensor-based fitness game with two filed patents, showed off its technology for encouraging people to perform cardio - word is that multiple companies are in discussion with licensing both PetPal and its filed patents. Kai Po! showed a 3D Indian-Fighter-Kite flying simulator, in which you use the WiiMote to control your kite and using expert maneuvers, try to cut your opponents' kites over the network to dominate the skies. Kai Po means "to cut" and is shouted out aloud by Indian kite flyers as they engage in combat.

Reflection, a Nintendo DS side scroller, requires you to solve things upside down and rightside up at the same time (click here for website). Reflection is also in serious commercialization discussions. Runesinger is a serious game that teaches the Korean language. Minor Battle is a multiple screen, side scroller that is quite engaging, with potential as an in-theater game experience. Demo Day concluded with a presentation on the "Pinball Madness Experience" developed by students in the special topics course this semester.

Faculty executive producers for the USC GamePipe Laboratory and the School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media were in attendance, beaming at their students’ efforts.  They included USC GamePipe Laboratory Director Michael Zyda and Assistant Director Scott Easley, and EA Game Innovation Laboratory Co-Director Chris Swain.

The USC GamePipe Laboratory’s mission is research, development and education on technologies and design for the future of interactive games and their application, from developing the supporting technologies for increasing the complexity and innovation in produced games to developing serious and entertainment games for government and corporate sponsors.

GamePipe has developed two degree programs to support this research and development agenda: a BS in computer science specializing in games, and an MS in computer science specializing in game development. The goal of the BS degree is to educate students capable of engineering next-generation games immediately upon graduation.

Students in this program receive a solid grounding in computer science in addition to the art and design required for functioning in the game industry. The goal of the MS degree is to graduate professionally educated students capable of engineering next-generation games and their required technologies. Students graduated from these degree programs are strong computer scientists, strong programmers, strong system developers and facile at working in cross-disciplinary collaborative game development teams.

Embedded in the degree programs is the full game development process, from game design to game engineering. Each student in the program takes a pipelines and game animation course sequence that teaches the student how to build models, animations and asset management for GamePipe supported game engines. Each student in the program learns how to utilize and create game engines. Each student in the program learns how to design both serious and entertainment games and then participates in team development of serious and entertainment games. In the last year of each student's coursework, they focus on team collaborative game design and development, with the teams comprised of students from the BS in computer science (games), the MS in computer science (game development), the MFA in interactive media (game design), the MFA in animation, and the BFA minor programs in game art and design. These cross-disciplinary teams ensure that games built in the GamePipe Laboratory have the proper mix of skills for game-industry quality development.

The USC GamePipe Laboratory has 2,000 square feet of laboratory space, with 35 development pods outfitted with the latest PCs, graphics displays, game development software, and a laboratory of Sony Playstation-3, Xbox-360, and graphics GPUs for the study and development of parallel programming on game consoles.