Interactive Media Forum for 4/29/15: Virtual Fieldtrip

Speakers: Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Julian Bleecker, Flint Dille
Time: Wednesday, April 29, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 108

For the final seminar of this semester, we will experiment with a prototype learning experience designed to flip the idea of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Whereas MOOCs bring students from outside the university into the academy through a virtual learning experience, we are developing a platform that enables students within the university to venture off-campus and into the most exciting, demanding and provocative worlds of professionals in their field. The prototype uses available technology to create a series of two-way conversations between students on campus and professionals in the field using Google Glass and a customized interface designed to facilitate clarity and intimacy between the students and the professional. The seminar will start with a brief history of Telematics and Telepresence by iMAP PhD candidate Joshua McVeigh-Schultz and then connect to the viewpoint of a guide who will tour us through the remote location.

Interactive Media Forum for 4/22/15: John Craig Freeman

Speaker: John Craig Freeman
Time: Wednesday, April 22, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 108

John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty­ five years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large­scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. His work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place. Freeman is a founding member of the international artists collective Manifest.AR and he has produced work and exhibited around the world including at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, FACT Liverpool, Kunsthallen Nikolaj Copenhagen, Triennale di Milano, the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing. He has had work commissioned by the ZERO1, and His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, El Pais, Liberation, Wired News, Artforum, Ten­8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper’s and Der Spiegel. Christiane Paul cites Freeman’s work in her book Digital Art, as does Lucy Lippard in the Lure of the Local, and Margot Lovejoy in Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. His writing has been published in Rhizomes, Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure. Freeman received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990. He is currently a Professor of New Media Art at Emerson College in Boston.

IM Forum for 4/15/15: Experiments, Prototypes, Previews

Speakers: IMGD 2nd Year MFA Students
Time: Wednesday, April 15, 4-5:50pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building (SCI), Room 206

Please join us for a special event this Wednesday April 15 at 4:00-6:00PM in SCI 206 when the second year MFA students will be presenting their experiments, prototypes and previews of next year’s IMGD Thesis projects. This will be a dynamic, hands-on opportunity to experience and critique a variety of interactive experiences at a crucial moment in their development. Don’t miss this preview of things to come.

Interactive Media Forum for 4/8/15: Diversity in Games

Title: “Diversity in Games”
Speakers: Anne Toole, Ekta Kumar, Stephanie Preovolos, Janine Tedford, Brian McDonald
Time: Wednesday, April 8, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 108

USC Interactive Media and Games Division in partnership with the International Game Developers Association invites the USC community and general public to a discussion and presentation regarding diversity in the games industry. The speakers will be presenting facts and strategies to promote diversity and educate others on how to be an ally.

Anne Toole, IGDA Board Member and Women in Games SIG Co-Chair
Anne Toole is a writer of games, television, webseries, and short fiction. Her credits include the Emmy-winning webseries THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARES and the WGA-nominated dark fantasy game THE WITCHER. Due to her transmedia experience, Anne has spoken at the inaugural Nokia OpenLab 2008 as well as about game design at GDC Europe, GDC Online, South by Southwest, the Login Game Conference, and Comic-con International. In addition to her work with the IGDA, she was appointed by the West Hollywood City Council to serve on the city’s Women’s Advisory Board. Anne graduated from Harvard with an ever-so-useful degree in Archaeology and suffers a minor zombie obsession.

Dr.Ekta Kumar, Director of USC Center for Women and Men
Ekta Kumar, Psy.D, has been named Director of the Center for Women and Men. Dr. Kumar comes to USC from the Loyola University Maryland counseling center, where she provided sound leadership in responding to sexual assault and other campus crises, provided individual, couples and group counseling, and served as a consultant and trainer for multicultural communities. She has facilitated numerous workshops including issues involving LGBTQA, gender and women of color, and she has presented at national conferences and published in national journals.

Stephanie Preovolos and Janine Tedford, Blizzard Entertainment, Human Resources

Brian McDonald, Game Designer at Activision / Infinity Ward
Brian McDonald has been an out-and-proud force in the game industry since 2008. He has worked on world class properties from Call of Duty to Hannah Montana, created award winning personal projects, and is a mentor with the IGDA mentors program. On the job, he is an outspoken proponent of diversity and inclusion who helped successfully push for female avatars in Call of Duty multiplayer. Brian earned a BS in Psychology & Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and currently works as a gameplay designer for Activision / Infinity Ward in Los Angeles, California. More info at — follow me @latestevolution

Interactive Media Forum for 4/1/15: Drew Murray & Marcus Smith, Insomniac Games

Speaker: Drew Murray & Marcus Smith, Insomniac Games
Time: Wednesday, April 1, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Title: “Expect the Unexpected: Lessons from Directing Sunset Overdrive (and becoming old men in the games industry)”

It’s not every day that you are offered the opportunity to do “whatever you want” and that freedom can be a blessing or curse. Marcus & Drew will discuss the challenges they experienced trying to do something different, from the obstacles of communication to the unexpected expectations of running a AAA console title in this tumultuous period.
Drew Murray is the Game Director of Sunset Overdrive. After aborted careers as an artist, chef, and attorney, Drew heard Jay Leno making fun of a new game design program at The Guildhall at SMU in a monologue and immediately enrolled. Drew joined Insomniac Games in July 1995 and has worked on Resistance: Fall of Man, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Resistance 2, and Resistance 3.
Marcus Smith was the Creative Director of Sunset Overdrive. Before that, he fulfilled the same role on Resistance 3, was Project Manager of the first two Resistance titles. Prior to starting at Insomniac, Marcus worked for Mark Cerny’s design consultancy, Cerny Games for nearly five years. Marcus started his career in video games in 1995 working on ‘Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair’, more ‘video’ than ‘game’, but it was an educational experience. It also means Marcus is super old.

Interactive Media Forum for 3/25/15: Refik Anadol

Speaker: Refik Anadol
Time: Wednesday, March 25, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206

Refik Anadol is a media artist, director and designer born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1985. Currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He is a lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts.
Refik is working in the fields of site-specific public art with parametric data sculpture approach and live audio/visual performance with immersive installation approach, particularly his works explore the space among digital and physical entities by creating a hybrid relationship between architecture and media arts. He holds a master of fine arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles in Media Arts, master of fine arts degree from Istanbul Bilgi University in Visual Communication Design as well as bachelors of arts degree with summa cum laude in Photography and Video. Co-founder and Creative director at Antilop.

As a media artist, designer and spatial thinker, Refik Anadol is intrigued by the ways in which the transformation of the subject of contemporary culture requires rethinking of the new aesthetic, technique and dynamic perception of space. Anadol builds his works on the nomadic subject’s reaction to and interactions with unconventional spatial orientations. Embedding media arts into architecture, he questions the possibility of a post digital architectural future in which there are no more non-digital realities. He invites the viewers to visualize alternative realities by presenting them the possibility of re-defining the functionalities of both interior and exterior architectural formations. Anadol’s work suggests that all spaces and facades have potentials to be utilized as the media artists’ canvases.
He has been given awards, residencies and has served as a guest lecturer. His site-specific audio/visual performances have been seen in Walt Disney Concert Hall (USA), Hammer Museum (USA), International Digital Arts Biennial Montreal (Canada), Ars Electronica Festival (Austria), l’Usine | Genève (Switzerland), Arc De Triomf (Spain), Zollverein | SANAA’s School of Design Building (Germany), santralistanbul Contemporary Art Center (Turkey), Outdoor Vision Festival SantaFe New Mexico (USA), Istanbul Design Biennial (Turkey), Sydney City Art (Australia), Lichtrouten (Germany).

GDC 2015: Affordable Motion Capture for Independent Developers

By far the most interesting thing I saw at GDC this year (admittedly with only an Exhibitor/Expo pass, so I can’t speak for any of the talks) was a motion capture system called Perception Neuron created by Noitom. Instead of using a complicated array of high-speed cameras that is difficult and expensive to set up and configure, it uses a series of inertial sensors to determine the position of various joints.

My interest in the Perception Neuron booth stemmed from several key advantages that a system like it has over traditional methods of motion capture. Apart from the obvious advantage in price, the use of inertial sensors means that the space actors can move is limited only by reception range, and many actors can be captured at the same time with greater ease. Furthermore, while traditional optical motion capture systems can encounter problems with occlusion of joints (especially those that use markers to track positions), this system has sensors on the actors themselves, eliminating this problem.

There are some problems that usually appear with inertial motion capture systems, most notably lower positional accuracy and positional drift that can accumulate over time. However, for independent games that do not need exceptional accuracy and have relatively short animations (instead of long cutscenes, for instance), these limitations are not particularly burdensome. In any case, the demo video below seems to have sufficient capture quality; and this test was a year and a half ago.

I also found this technology exciting because I think it could be useful to me personally. I’ve been somewhat concerned about how much 3d animation my thesis may potentially require, and my hope is that this system or something like it could significantly cut down the amount of work required to have animated human models in my thesis. It will probably still require some cleanup and may not be good at certain kinds of animation that normal mocap would be fine with, but I’m optimistic nonetheless.

GDC 2015 Session: Effective Side-Scroller Controls on Mobile

I attended a talk about making sidescroller games on mobile devices. The talk was presented by Kayla Kinnunnen, one of the makers of the mobile game Carnage. Kayla taught by example, taking us through the many iterations of mobile controls for carnage.

When designing buttons for mobile, the biggest problems are mis-clicks and thumb-drift (thumb being in the entirely wrong place to reach all the buttons). When either of these problems occur, the player is brought out of their flow state. These problems are specific to touch screens because unlike old-school console controllers and laptop keyboards, the buttons give no tactile feedback.

In order to solve these issues, the makers of Carnage decided to make the hit areas as large as possible. They studied the movement of the thumb, and decided on three distinct positions:

1. Vertical

2. Horizontal

3. Tucked

The comfort level of the position determined what the button would be used for. For example, tucked is the least comfortable of the three positions, and should be used for an action that’s rarely needed. Vertical is the most comfortable, and should be used for a common action. In the case of carnage, this worked well because they needed a comfortable button for jumping, and since players already correlate pointing upwards with jumping, vertical was the obvious choice. The following is the button layout they chose for iPad during a past iteration.

Next, the Carnage team needed to apply the same concepts to mobile. You can’t simply shrink your iPad controls to solve for mobile. On any device less than 7 inches long, the players’ thumbs are likely to touch. For this reason, you should split your control scheme into two categories: devices less than 7 inches, and devices 7 inches and larger. The following is the layout they chose for iPhone.

In general, when designing controls for mobile, remember that this stuff is difficult. There’s no predefined user experience or standard physical input. The lack of tactile input means many console schemes won’t work.

As designers, we can look at this challenge as an opportunity. Console controls for games have a sharp learning curve, and thus exclude large populations of would-be gamers. As we approach game design for mobile, we can use the fresh start to target a new audience, and make games more accessible.

Interactive Media Forum for 3/4/15: Jeffrey Shaw

Speaker: Jeffrey Shaw
Time: Wednesday, March 4, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI),Room 108
Title: New Media Art and the Cinematic Imaginary

New Media Art today offers a large spectrum of perceptual experiences that forge new levels of heightened perception based on innovative methods of conveying and exchanging information. These new media technologies demonstrate the power of media to reformulate space and time as a surrogate experience. Their imperative is the disappearance of the picture frame, enabling the interactive viewer to become immersed and enlivened by the re-presented experience. In his presentation Professor Jeffrey Shaw will elucidate a forty year artistic practice than ranges between expanded cinema and virtual reality, showing examples of work that describe the reformulation of narrative as a situation of emergent interaction. He will also describe recent virtual heritage projects being developed at the City University of Hong Kong Applied Laboratory for Visualization and Embodiment (ALiVE).

Jeffrey Shaw has been a leading figure in new media art since the 1960’s. In a prolific oeuvre of widely exhibited and critically acclaimed works he has pioneered and set benchmarks for the creative use of digital media technologies in the fields of virtual and augmented reality, immersive visualization environments, navigable cinematic systems and interactive narrative. Jeffrey Shaw was the founding director of the ZKM Institute for Visual Media Karlsruhe (1991-2002), and in 2003 he was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship to co-found and direct the UNSW iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research. Since 2009 Shaw has been Chair Professor of Media Art and Dean of the School of Creative Media at City University in Hong Kong). Shaw is also Visiting Professor at the Imperial College Institute of Global Health Innovation and at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing.

Interactive Media Forum for 2/25/15: Asher Vollmer

Speaker: Asher Vollmer
Time: Wednesday, February 25, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Title: The Rabbit Hole of Minimalist Design
Abstract: In this talk we’re going to explore how to strive for elegance in game design and if that’s even something we should be striving for in the first place.

Asher Vollmer is an independent game developer best known for designing the minimalist iOS puzzlers Threes and Puzzlejuice. He learned his trade by spending ten months at thatgamecompany and four years at the University of Southern California. Asher helped create two IGF Student Showcase winners: The Misadventures of P.B.Winterbottom and Spectre. He can, to this day, tell you the solution to every puzzle in every LucasArts adventure game that he’s played since childhood.