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Viterbi GamePipe Lab Hosts Highly Successful Demo Day

Eleventh edition of the semiannual event attracts largest audience ever
Lisa Heckaman
December 20, 2010 —

More than 70 game industry reps joined 200 spectators, faculty, students, reporters and friends in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Forum on the USC campus for the 11th semiannual GamePipe Lab "Demo Day," seeing the future of the field -- and to offer internships, and jobs -- as student teams showcased their projects.

Companies included Disney Interactive, Sony, LucasArts, MTV Networks, Electronic Arts, Activision, Nokia Research, Zynga, Intel, Mozaic, Applied Minds, Naughtydog, THQ, Aielo, Creative Artists Agency, Blizzard, Zynga, and Happynin Games.

Greg Lieberman helped build "The Bridge" (All photos by Victor Leung)
At Demo Day students show off games they built in the USC Viterbi School's GamePipe Lab in the previous semester. Recruiters and game execs have learned that GamePipe Demo Day is a prime scouting ground for talent and new ideas.

Participants include students from the School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Division (B.A. Interactive Entertainment, M.F.A. Interactive Media) and students from the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Computer Science Department (B.S. in Computer Science (Games), M.S. in Computer Science (Game Development), Ph.D. in Computer Science (Games)).

Collaborative schools involved this year included the Laguna College of Art & Design and Atlantic College in Puerto Rico: students from those programs have been providing concept art, 3D models, animation and rigging for games.

Blade Olsen, creative lead for the "DancePad"

“I am so excited about the turnout for this event," said Mike Zyda, GamePipe executive director and USC professor of engineering practice in the Viterbi School Department of Computer Science. "Every seat at the Forum was filled, and we had students sitting in the aisles. I couldn’t be happier with level of innovation displayed with the student projects, and the amount of positive feedback I received from industry execs.”

Jose Villetta, director of technology at Disney Interactive Studios & professor of computer science, USC GamePipe Labs at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is re-assured every year when the class sizes increases by 30%. “Our class size a few years ago averaged eight students – now we have courses with 55 students and growing – we really have something good here.”

Demo Day started with the team presenting Mother Nature, led by Creative Director Diane Tucker, a game that brings the fundamental components of nature into one place and uses the players' own body to make the verbs of nature—sprout, fall, grow, hunt, blow, eat, dodge, repel, bloom– into the tools of play. The game's objects and those objects' interactions are based on the logic of real-world ecosystems.

An enthusiastic, very large team that included students from the Atlantic College USC Interactive Media Program presented The Bridge, set in the near future, where players find themselves in the middle of a galaxy bustling with intelligent alien life forms, the human race has adopted a policy of rapid expansionism and military jingoism in an effort to establish themselves in the universe. Game producer Troy Lee introduced his energetic and well-uniformed crew while convincing the audience that their project was relevant, exciting and multifaceted.

Quicksilver: Infinite Story,” is an arcade-style brawler that explores storytelling based on the conventions of adventure television shows, and can generate an endless number of episodes.
GamePipe Lab Executive Director Mike Zyda
Another excellent project was the iPad application, Dance Pad, set to launch in Apple stores in summer 2011, a new game for the iPad, where the player performs iconic dance moves with their fingers, dance to music, and compete with their friends.
Lead Creative Director and Dance Pad producer (and presenter at Demo Day) Blade Olson, was enthusiastic and hopeful about the future of their ‘rapid iteration’ application. “Our 10-person team cares about fame, not money right now,” said the energetic Olson. The team received support from EA Mobile, and is planning to expand the interface of the project to include a visual “watch-it” component for the second semester of the GamePipe course.
Created by a Gabriel Deyerle,Unchained  presented an artistic blend of 1900’s meets 1940’s, also known as “steampunk,” in an action-adventure game where you sail the skies in a beautiful world as players embark on custom built airships, that transport goods and people on a regular basis. “If I have my say, this project will go all the way,” said Deyerle, who hopes to be employed by Microsoft in his future.

Other projects included Cosmopolis (XNA) -an online game for behavioral model testing, Pyengine Tech Demo - a new engine & tool suite for PC & Xbox-360 game development - and the following iPhone game applications: Q-Monkey, Hyperspace Smuggler, Blood Moon, Thunder Strike and CombiForm. (See complete Demo Day agenda).
Demo Day concluded with Zyda thanking the industry attendees for their support of our program "and for hiring our students!"  Faculty Executive Producers for the USC GamePipe Laboratory and the School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media were in attendance, beaming at their students’ efforts, who included, besides Zyda, Associate Director Scott Easley, and School of Cinematic Arts Research Professor Chris Swain.

NVIDIA, a oomputer graphics leader announced a CUDA Teaching Center partnership with the GamePipe Lab.  The in kind donation of equipment and software will be enable leveraging the immense parallel processing power of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs).  CUDA is NVIDIA's parallel computing architecture that enables increases in computing performance.  CUDA is being used by software developers, scientists and other researchers in applications for image and processing, computational biology, chemistry,  fluid dynamics simulation, CT image reconstruction, ray tracing and seismic analysis.

Industry executives gathered on the USC campus at Ronald Tutor Hall for the 11th semiannual "Demo Day," to see student creations and to offer internships, jobs, as student teams showcased their latest video game projects.


Background on the USC GamePipe Laboratory
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 B.S. in computer science specializing in games, and an M.S. in computer science specializing in game development. The goal of the B.S. is to educate students so that they are 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 M.S. 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.

"The future of video gaming was on display Tuesday at the University of Southern California - a vision that looked fun, somewhat scary and pretty creative at every level..." (click on logo to read more)
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
"For most students, the approach of winter break means stress over finals. But for those studying video game development at USC, the tension is even greater: If they’re successful at what’s called Demo Day, they could get their game into stores or land a big job..."  (click on logo to read more)
team development of serious and entertainment games. The last year in the program focuses on team collaborative game design and development, with the teams comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from the Viterbi School and the School of Cinematic Arts. 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 30 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

The 12th Demo Day will take place Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

For more information about GamePipe Lab, visit http://gamepipe.usc.edu

Teaching games as a computer science academic discipline, an essay by Mike Zyda. Click on the image to download pdf