All’s Fair

Collin Kelly

Platform: Board Game All’s Fair is a party card game in which two players take the role of suitors attempting to seduce the third player – the bachelor. They build and pitch dates that they feel will be effective, and then ruin the other’s date with wildly inappropriate and sometimes disturbing sabotage cards. FEATURES Compete with one another for the affection of one other with ridiculous, but enjoyable dates. Ruin relationships and possibly friendships as you absolutely trash those dates. Attempt to learn the exact dating interests of friends or strangers in a bid to best seduce them. Someone went on a date built in All’s Fair and described the experience as “Sloppy, but pleasant.” Created for an out-of-class, but in-school project. TEAM Sam Celeste – Lead Designer Ana Solimano – Executive Producer Clerisse Cornejo – Design & Writing Rachel Emig – Art Director Joeyee Tan – Writing Director Sydney Lang – Writing & Design Kevin Ke – Art & Design

Five USC Games Students, Alumni named Forbes 30 Under 30

Collin Kelly

This month, five USC Games students/alumni were named Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017 in the category of Games. In celebration of their success, USC Games has asked our awardees to give insight into their response to the award, what their trajectory looks like, and how other students and developers can learn from their success. Lishan AZ A current MFA third-year student with the Interactive Media & Games Division, Lishan’s vibrant contributions to the program inspire her compatriots to push themselves to greater heights. Her second year project THE LOCKER – a physical storytelling experience wrapped in an escape room’s ideology –  was a 2016 Indiecade Selection; Lishan also contributed to the Winteractive Selection DOWNTOWN BROWNS, an interactive webseries exploring the lives of WoC living in Los Angeles. What does it mean to you to be named a 30 Under 30? It feels great to give family something positive to call each other about. I think my mom’s reaction alone was enough to get me through the year–she literally told me (once she stopped shouting with excitement) “I have to call you back, I’m too happy to be on the phone right now.” Haha. On a more serious note, making the 30 Under 30 list is an encouraging sign that folks are seeing the work I do as relevant and valuable. I’m hoping that this exposure will help me continue to do the work that I believe is most important. What do you think has enabled you to succeed that can inspire other up-and-coming developers/designers/students? Find like-minded creators who will keep you sharp. I’m blessed to have met other designers and artists of color who are deeply engaged with social issues in their work. They inspire me, challenge me, and hold me accountable in unique ways because they understand where I’m coming from in my work. The people that will help you grow don’t always fall into your lap–be intentional about seeking out your peers, and make time to build with them on a regular basis. Even considering your recent recognition, what are the next challenges and goals that you will face as you grow even more into the future? I’m currently working on my MFA thesis project, Tracking Ida, which is inspired by the pioneering investigative journalism of Ida B. Wells in the 1890s. It’s an educational game that will launch in high school classrooms in Watts, Los Angeles this March. Players solve puzzles, comb through historical archives with the help of a phonograph, role-play as investigative journalists, and harness social media to spread awareness about an issue affecting their community today. I’ll be graduating this coming May, and am currently seeking funding to expand Tracking Ida and bring it to more classrooms next year. My goal is to create transformative experiences for education, discovery and social awareness. If people want to contact you or get a look at your work, how can they best connect with you? You can check out my work at itsLishan.com. I also recently joined twitter, hit … Read More

GOLDRUSH

Collin Kelly

Platform: PC/Mac Game GOLDRUSH is a local multiplayer game about exploration and discovery. The players take the roles of prospectors looking for gold and other riches. FEATURES Explore a Western-themed world through running, jumping and climbing Discover secrets and find treasure Use TNT to explode objects (or the other player) Compete with your friends and win the game! This game is being created as part of Richard Lemarchand’s Interactive Design & Production class. There are set milestones within this class, meaning that by the end of the semester we will have a polished, feature & content complete, playable version of our game. TEAM John Billingsley – Game Design & Programming Georg Luif – Game Design & Programming Learn more at http://www.luif.at/goldrush/.

Animal Kingdom VR

Collin Kelly

Platform: PC/Oculus Rift Game A VR Exploration game with animated characters. FEATURES You are a bear in a colorful world that sees a ship fall from the sky and pursues it. Third Person VR Exploration Game TEAM F3D Learn more at www.animalkingdomthegame.com.

Sing

Collin Kelly

Platform: PC Game Sing is a 2D puzzle platformer that uses the player’s voice to affect the game world. The game explores the question of why we have music by presenting the many aspects and influences of music in a unique fashion. It is a game like no other. FEATURES Any noise you make is analyzed for its pitch. The game world responds to, and changes with, your pitch. Colors change, platforms move, stop moving, disappear, reappear, etc. You rescue characters, that each respond to your voice in different ways, from Silence, and then sing freely with them in celebration. In order to play you need headphones, a microphone, and a voice. We began making making this game over the summer, which involved doing research on music theory, emotion, and the brain, and then experimenting with various gameplay ideas that evolved naturally from what we had learned. We are now continuing to develop this game in the Intermediate Game Workshop course. We are making this game to provoke the player to explore the role of music in regards to themselves and the human condition. We consistently ask ourselves, “Why should this be in our game? What purpose does it serve in furthering our argument and how can we express that to the player?” TEAM Thomas Wilson – Designer and Engineer Rama Gosula – Designer and Engineer Aaron Spieldenner – Sound Designer Click here to download a playable build!

My First IndieCade, a Student’s Perspective

Collin Kelly

Induction into a chef’s cult, figuring out the mystery behind a ghostly bride, meeting a butcher turned game designer, hearing talks from industry veterans and witnessing how diverse the gaming community is, was an unforgettable first time at IndieCade 2016. FOR PROFESSIONALS A festival is a celebration, and IndieCade can’t celebrate independent games without also celebrating their creators. The indie games festival not only exhibits games but also sets up playtests, workshops, talks, and other events to help facilitate growth for game developers. I remember attending a talk by Kriste Stull which was appropriately named, “The Most Strategic Game of All: How to Launch a Successful Career in the Video Game Industry.” Kriste Stull is a veteran of the game industry and worked for companies like Blizzard, EA and Sony as a hiring manager. In other words, Stull has insider knowledge of what hiring managers like to see and what types of people generally get the job. In the end, it was always the person who worked well with others, a person who listened and kept open lines of communication. It wasn’t always the talented artist that got the job, but usually the candidate that people wouldn’t mind spending 10+ hours working with. Along with other incredibly helpful knowledge, Stull imparted hope for the future to many ambitious game devs. There were also other talks being held by industry veterans like Frank Dille, current creative lead of Niantic. Also present were industry writers, animators, professors and more. IndieCade proved to be extremely educational for people who are serious about entering the game industry. FOR GAMERS Of course IndieCade isn’t just for indie developers — it’s also for people that enjoy playing games. I had a tremendous amount of fun playing all sorts of games ranging from board games to VR to more regular form games. However, the most memorable experience at IndieCade was when I participated in the festival’s unique Night Games event. When I arrived at IndieCade’s night games event, filled with an assortment of games that take advantage of the cooler nights and darker lights, I noticed an eerie sight. Around the grounds of the School of Cinematic Arts walked a bride in a white dress and a thick veil. The veil obscured her face, making it difficult to see who was underneath, even if you walked up to her. While I played other games, I made sure to keep an eye on her. It was strange to me that no one reacted to the sight. She would walk past groups of people and none of them would even acknowledge the sight. Involuntarily I shivered more than once, perhaps it was from the icy breeze from the late night or something more sinister. As the night went on and I played more games, I felt more and more disturbed by the sight that didn’t belong. I’m not one for horrific experiences, so the sight of a bride with her hands over her chest as if she were on … Read More

QUIET OF THE LEAVES: AN INTROSPECTIVE ADVENTURE

Collin Kelly

In the prehistoric era of video games, even before Pong (1972), that many of our parents love to regale stories about, there existed a game called Tennis for Two (1958). Tennis for Two was in many ways similar to Pong yet played on an extremely high tech computer that when not calculating the trajectory of a pong ball it calculated the trajectory of missiles to assist in the defense of the United States. For many years afterwards, games would continue to be extremely minimalist and focus primarily on mechanics. It wasn’t until the last few years that games began to focus on narrative on top of strong game mechanics. Today, in the second floor of the building that the Interactive Media and Game Division call home, exists the workspace for the team behind Quiet of the Leaves, a narrative driven game which allows players to witness both sides of a strained relationship. Players make decisions which affect the relationship for the better or inadvertent worse. A far cry from the the games of old. The game industry has come a long way from games like Pong where there was hardly any story embedded within. However, that’s not to say that Quiet of the Leaves will be a game better suited for a medium like film with its narrative heavy parts. What makes the concept so interesting is that the player will balance emotional and rational decisions. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but perhaps the way players answer will be indicative of who they, the player, are. Quiet of the Leaves is an introspective adventure for both the daughter-father duo and the player. THE NARRATIVE To a western market, Quiet of the Leaves may be an odd sight. The game’s protagonists are Latinx and feature a woman as a main character. “We’re not trying to send a message about anything,” said Ryan Bobell. “In writing the characters, a lot of us felt it was a natural fit. Many people on the team are people of color or marginalized backgrounds. A lot of us put some of our own identities into the game.” Quiet of the Leaves aims to show that featuring people of color is a normal sight. There is no narrative reason why the main characters are Latinx and there isn’t a reason for them to be anything else either. The main characters are just people. Fortunately this is also a far cry from games of old. Ryan describes a typical grievance they have, “Some people might say, ‘This character is queer. What about that is motivating the character?’ And, ‘What about that is relevant to the plot? If it’s not relevant to the plot then why have it?’ “But I think it’s important to show these other identities and life experiences even when they’re not relevant to the plot.” Yet, all that doesn’t mean the game won’t be a slog of a text adventure — it’ll be fun and enjoyable on top of being gripping. “We’re working … Read More

SKYSHOT: CHANGING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FPS GAME

Collin Kelly

Score tied. Match point. I run along the side of a wall past a defender and shoot my grappling hook to swing around another. My team yells in excitement as I carry the ball closer and closer to the goal hoop. All I have to do is throw the ball in and my team will have bragging rights for weeks amongst the playtesters of Skyshot. Bounding across platforms, I reach the goal hoop at the top of the tallest structure in the arena and see the last defender running towards me. I only have two options: shoot the ball at a bad angle or run away. I’m paralyzed with my options and the pressure. In less than a few seconds of reaching the top of the pillar and going along the flowchart of my options, the defender steals the ball from me and leaves me in the dust. A NEW ADDITION TO eSPORTS An FPS game without guns or death, Skyshot offers a new definition for the common phrase used in gaming culture: First Person Sports game. USC Games student, Eu-Ann Liu is the game director of Skyshot, currently being developed as an Advanced Game Project (AGP). “As a dedicated FPS [game] fan, since I was a child,” says Eu-Ann, “my biggest enjoyment in FPS games is the whole experience that you’re kinda there and you’re living it. It’s very in the moment. I feel like players who resonate with FPS shooters can transition into [Skyshot] really easily.” Set in a futuristically designed arena, Skyshot players score points by shooting a ball through a hoop and outmaneuver opponents by using grappling hooks and superhuman agility to run along walls. “I want to deliver a FPS/sports experience which hasn’t really been done before,” says Eu-Ann. “All the sports games that you play are third person like Super Mario Strikers or FIFA — but what if we make a FPS/sports game and make that a competitive eSport?” The first person perspective, parkour mechanics, unique sport concept and grappling hook allows players to make incredibly skillful plays by stringing a long different mechanics to score. Skyshot’s unique mechanics can’t be replicated in real life, of course, so the game utilizes the medium of video games to deliver an experience that can’t be received anywhere else. COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT The game started as a small side project among friends. Back then, the game was more of like a toy or sandbox game. Only the parkour and grappling hook mechanics were implemented, there wasn’t any objective besides to just move around. However, Eu-Ann saw something more in the mechanics and that further developing their idea would mean creating something truly unique and worthwhile. Today, Skyshot is still a project among friends. “I’ve never been in a community that’s so welcoming, so open, and so collaborative,” says Eu-Ann. “Everyone here is passionate. Everyone here share similar interests, and if you don’t there’s always a space for you.” Because Skyshot is a multiplayer game, it adds a whole … Read More

AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE FROM LIGHT TEAM

Collin Kelly

  When I first signed up to playtest a 2D puzzle platformer called From Light, I didn’t know what to expect. I slouched in my seat and kept an eye on the time to make sure the playtest coordinator didn’t keep me playing longer than I had signed up for. Instead, an hour passed by in minutes as I lost myself to the game. I intuitively solved puzzles through the freezing of time by taking a snapshot of the current game state, or by creating trails of light through long exposure photography. The only disappointment I felt was when I reached the end.     From Light captured not just moments in the game, but my heart as well. I sneaked a peek at the planned 2.5D art overhaul for the game and just looking at the art was as captivating as playing the game. Moving through the world From Light takes place on will undoubtedly charm many players once implemented. While From Light may look simple from images, the game was exhibited at PAX and already has seen success in its unfinished state. EARLY STAGES OF FROM LIGHT Rarely seen in the gaming industry, having two co-directors on a project typically creates more problems than solutions. In the chaotic process of designing games, two heads working to realize one vision is cumbersome, thus many games only ever have one director. However, USC students Alejandro Grossman and Steven Li go against traditional wisdom and lead the From Light team, together.                 An inseparable duo since meeting freshman year, Steven and Alejandro partnered up for the Intermediate Game Development class (referred colloquially as Intermediate) and began work on what would become From Light. “We went into Leavey [Library],” says Alejandro, “in front of a whiteboard and pitched ideas at one another every day after class, and we just kept shooting each other down.” Amidst academic pressures, Alejandro and Steven kept their dedication to game design strong everyday after class. However, the future co-directors didn’t find their unique mechanic in the brainstorming sessions at Leavey Library. In actuality, they found the photography mechanic after Alejandro looked at a wireframe image that reminded him of long exposure photography and attempted to pitch an idea to Steven. “When [Alejandro] described it to me,” explains Steven, “I didn’t really take it seriously or understand what he was saying — at all.” Fortunately, the duo humored the idea of mixing photography with video games and eventually prototyped the idea. With a prototype finished, Steven and Alejandro faced one last hurdle: naming the game. “I wanted to call it Exposed,” Alejandro laughs. The co-directing duo eventually settled on the familiar name, From Light, after completing the Intermediate Game Development class. THE ART AND STORY What happens to a community or a world, rather, when the very thing they’ve relied on for survival disappears? The Skelk, an alien race in From Light, are living on a desolate planet that used to be … Read More

USC Games Wins Big at IndieCade

Collin Kelly

At the conclusion of IndieCade, the Red Carpet Awards celebrates the best of the selected nominees with a diverse set of awards that highlight everything from technological achievements, to design marvels, to the most well-received of the attendees. At this year’s ceremony, fourteen games were selected for the various awards. Of these fourteen games, four were from the USC Games Family: Hyper Light Drifter, Infinit-O, Soundstage, and You Must Be 18 Years or Older to Enter, were selected as winners. Hyper Light Drifter, a 2D action RPG designed by IMGD Alumni Theodore Diefenbach, received Jury Choice Award for it’s fantastic design and amazing gameplay. It is available on Steam, and should be played by everyone. Infinit-O, an interactive experience engineered by IMGD Instructor Archie Prakash alongside the award winning artist Corazon Del Sol, received the Visual Design Award. The game uses dream-like vignettes to allow the player to explore the creative power of womanhood. More information about this amazing experience can be found here. Soundstage, a unique virtual reality sandbox where you can play a variety of musical instruments in room-scale VR, was awarded the Audio Design Award. The game was designed by Logan Olson, M.F.A. graduate of IMGD. At USC, he began exploring room-scale with at the USC MxR with the assistance VR luminary Mark Bolas, before moving on to Disney Imagineering. Soundstage is his first independent project. Last but certainly not least, You Must Be 18 Years or Older to Enter received the Media Choice Award. A secret look into the awkward world of a newly pubescent youth, the self-ascribed “looking-at-porn-for-the-first-time-as-a-kid-simulator” is one of the many games designed by M.F.A. graduate student James Earl Cox III. The game was made as part of his journey to create 100 games in five years. The game is free to play and download at https://seeminglypointless.itch.io/18orolder. We’re so proud of all the games that were shown, and are thrilled that such a great time was had by all. GAME ON!