Spaceships, Robots, and Zombies at the USC GamePipe Lab Spring 17 Showcase

Last Wednesday I attended the University of Southern California’s GamePipe Lab’s semi-annual Showcase held at the Egg Building just outside the university’s Los Angeles campus, and as always I was impressed by the exceptional work of some of the best and brightest game development students in the country.

For USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Mike Zyda and his students in the USC Games program, the Spring 2017 Showcase event is an opportunity to show off a school year’s worth of collaboration, creativity and computer design. It’s also the students’ introduction to a host of industry scouts who may purchase and publish the games, as well as hire program graduates to design, program, and produce the games of the future. I make an effort to attend Showcase every six months to help me set aspirations for my own students at The Los Angeles Film School.

There were so many great games to play, that it is a shame that there was only time for me to play two.


Arkology is a virtual reality real-time strategy game developed as part of virtual reality research at the University of Southern California. The player controls the game using motion control.  At first I had difficulty understanding how to move the units using my virtual reality “hands”, but one I learned to stop over-thinking user interface, I realized how intuitive and simple the controls actually were.

From the Operations Room in the heart of the Ark, the player must strategize, command, and lead his forces to preserve what may be the last of humanity.  As soon as the player becomes familiar with the controls, the enemy begins to attack,  The player is then forced to activate the experimental warp drive to preserve the Ark, but with the premature activation of experimental tech,  the player and the crew of the Ark find themselves in uncharted space.

I found that I really enjoyed how virtual reality immersed me in what was a cross between a board game and a real-time strategy game.  Developed by a six-person team led by Powen Yao, this is a game that I would pick up just to show off my virtual reality gear.


BoltCraft is a cooperative, wave-based, third-person action game where players are members of the Bolton Collective in a fight for a desolated Earth’s resources against the planet’s robotic overlords. Developed by an 11-person team lead by Maison Lietzke and Martha Monica with artistic collaboration with the Laguna College of Art & Design., BoltCraft allows players to customize their robot’s abilities and appearance and deploy helpful minions to defend themselves and their team against an onslaught of enemies.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any screenshots of this game, so you’ll have to take my word fo it that I had fun maneuvering my robot through an urban environment and selecting different abilities and fortification to defend my area against the overlords attempting to take control of it.

As always, the creativity and technical prowess of the USC Games students was impressive, and it was exciting to see how these kids are bending our reality to create a new gaming future.

About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, The 3DO Company and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, a game design instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, and co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on May 15, 2017, in Game Education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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