Tag Archives: UCI

UCI team wins the 2018 IEEE GameSig competition!

Once again, a student-based game development team from UCI has been declared the winner of the annual IEEE GameSIG game development competition; that’s them in the main image. The competition, held every year and featuring games developed by student teams from multiple regional colleges and universities including UCI, Fullerton, Chapman, Cal State Long Beach, USC, and others, brings a narrowed-down field of ten finalists from this year’s original field of twenty; these ten games were the ones the review and selection committee, of which yours truly, meaning me, is a member, felt were the cream of a very rich crop. Yet even with all that fierce competition, UCI won, and in fact has won for the last seven years straight. It’s held at a different campus every year, each hosting the competition on a rotating schedule, but no matter where it’s held, UCI always brings home the trophy. I’m co-Chair of the reviewer committee along with professor Dan Frost who has been doing it since the beginning but recently retired, and one of the organizers, so I’ll have my work cut out for me next year as the 2019 competition will be held at UCI.

Setting up for the competition

Setting up for the competition

The final award winners, their respective institutions, and the awards they won for this year were:

Sky Farm (UCI) – First place and Showcase Cup
Reinvent the Wheel (Cal State Long Beach) – Second place and People’s Choice Award (voted on by the audience)
Super Nova (LCAD and USC) – Third place
Residuum (Santa Ana College) – ACM Award for its simulation of a human ecosystem
When the Moon Rises (Chapman) – Artistic Achievement Award
RGB (Chapman) – Technical Achievement Award
Hive Armada (Chapman) – Accessibility Award

Judging was done by industry veterans, including one of the original Blue Sky Rangers and CEO of Quicksilver Software, Bill Fischer, who is also the GameSIG chair (that’s him on the left of the header image). Each team had five minutes to present and five minutes for questions and answers, which could sometimes be challenging. Although I am very pleased that UCI was victorious (and that a friendly rivalry has now started between us and Chapman; they’re gunning for us next year for sure), all the games submitted were absolutely fantastic. In fact, the audience was allowed to vote for the People’s Choice award, and even I voted for Reinvent the Wheel. I wasn’t a judge, obviously, and although I really did feel that Sky Farm was the most polished, complete, and visually stunning game, I felt that Reinvent the Wheel is a game I would actually play more often. All you do is form a boulder, push it down a hill, and see how far it goes, but trying to get that last little bit of distance is a surprising carrot that keeps people coming back. Even the name is clever. Screens from both are below.
Sky Farm

Sky Farm – UCI

Reinvent the Wheel

Reinvent the Wheel – Chapman

Note that in reinvent the wheel, you’re trying to mow down others on the high-score list.
Other games were just as remarkable: RGB, a massive game featuring three characters with varying abilities that can be switched between at any time, and SuperNova, a VR rhythm game, were both built by a team of only one. And Hive Armada, another VR game, had setting for color blindness, something I rarely see in games today, yet should be present in all of them.
A very fun time, everyone enjoyed themselves, it was my first major visit to Chapman University which is beautiful and the whole surrounding town has a real charm to it, just a wonderful day overall. Now the planning begins for next year, and as mentioned it will be held here at UCI and Chapman is rightfully and understandably gunning for us. I can’t wait!
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If you are interested in participating in next year’s competition, please contact me and I will fill you in on all the details. Keep in mind that everyone who participates in the development of the game must be a student at time of development, and although team members can be from any school around the world, the team must be majority represented by one of the participating schools.

Another outstanding Computer Game Development showcase!

Computer Game Development showcase

The quarter has finally ended, and with that comes this year’s Computer Game Development (CS 113 / INF 125) showcase, open to everyone – all faculty, staff, students, and others interested in game development. As always, the titles on display were, overall, of very high quality. Some were absolutely incredible, and I’ll highlight one of them at the end of this post, but I am always incredibly impressed with the range of concepts, ideas, and designs students come up with. From a potato trying to escape a kitchen, to an engineer who can hop back and forth between our world and the spirit world, to a game where you play as one of several geometric shapes each with their own ability, to a VR game – our first ever – to teach people musical intervals, all the games on display were incredibly unique. Along with having our first VR project, this was also the first time ever that anyone in the class used the Unreal Engine; I’ve been trying to get that to happen for years, and this quarter two groups, including the VR group, used it!

VR Project

VR Project

The standard is still Unity, of course, which is perfectly fine. Hey, if there was no Unity, there’d be no Rocket League, and we can’t have that.

Even more than the games that are incredibly polished and advanced, I come away most impressed with the groups who began the quarter with no knowledge whatsoever of game design or the tools to create something interactive and playable, and in a mere ten weeks created a game that could be played and that was even enjoyable is the most rewarding part of the class. They are the most proud of what they accomplished, and deservedly so.

There is always a game that stands out among the rest, and this time was no exception. Before I mention them, however, I need to say this is no way a denigration of the other projects. Everyone did a great job, presented creative ideas, put in a lot of effort, scrambled to learn new technologies, and they all deserve praise and credit. That being said, there is always one project that is all but ready for public release, and this quarter’s winner in that category is a visual and storytelling triumph, The Taking of the SS Amusement. Did I mention I suggested that name in a nod to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three?

Crayon Fire Games

Crayon Fire Games

The team named themselves CrayonFire games. The story behind that is a perfect example of the way all names should be decided; in a completely accidental and organic manner. During a Slack chat, someone mentioned a canyon fire that was happening here in SoCal, and another group member misread ‘canyon fire’ as ‘crayon fire’ and became understandable confused. And that, my friend, is how great company (and band) names are born.

The group was also lucky in that everyone involved was a gamer, and passionately so, and double lucky in that one of their group members had extensive Unity experience and coded games as a hobby, and triply lucky in that his roommate was an art major who agreed to the pixel art for them and created multiple masterpieces, as least as far as pixel art goes. The animations and behaviors of each enemy, which are robot chefs and stewards, by the way, is absolutely perfect, with my favorite being the food cart-pushing robots who charge the player then stop to wipe their brow even though they’re robots, and the final boss who presses the appropriate colored button to launch an attach which drains a battery meter. There are also parallax stars visible through windows,  and a subtle before and after in the title screen. The game is challenging, expertly designed, and beautiful. Again, this is not to take away from other projects, I was happy with them all. But this game is special.

Their website is crayonfiregames.wordpress.com (they had to create a website as part of the course requirements), and I have embedded their promotional video below. I’ll see if I can make the game available for download – it’s definitely worth a play.

But again, congratulations to everyone in the class, there was so much good stuff on display it took longer than the two-hour showcase to go around and evaluate them all. I look forward to it every year, and for all the hard work the students have put in over the course of the quarter I know they really appreciate the opportunity to show off their achievements and accomplishments to everyone, and the feedback, both internal and external, was very positive all around.

Outside the showcase

Outside the showcase

On a relevant side note: I am trying to set up a repository of all the games that groups created for the class, however that is still in planning stages so it’s just a sidenote for now, however I have high hopes we can use it as a central hub to highlight all the games created in this class over all quarters. If it happens, there will definitely be an announcement made here.

Congratulations to the first graduating cohort from UCI’s Master’s in Human Computer Interaction and Design

They've earned this

It is with no small sense of fulfillment and pride that I congratulate our first graduating cohort in the new MHCID program here at UCI.

Although I was brought into it relatively late, about two years after initial planning had begun, I have been part of the program for over a year and developed / taught the Advanced Design and Prototyping course, as well as the second half of the two-quarter capstone course. Next year I will be teaching the full two-quarters of the capstone course, likely because I do the same at the undergrad level and having two faculty teach part of the same course is difficult.

As this was a newly developed program, the students we admitted for the first go round were strong personalities, risk takers, enthusiastic and driven, and it showed. Highs and lows, tough times and hard roads, late nights and online meetings, yet they all made it through to the end, surpassing every challenge and task they faced, and ultimately created capstone projects that were highly praised by their corporate (and in one case, educational) partners as well as their peers. That’s them in the header image, by the way, and the jubilation you can see is real, and earned.

They presented their projects on Friday to all the program’s corporate partners, peers, colleagues, faculty, and our incoming second cohort, and they were all very well received. The partners they worked with had nothing but praise for the quality of the work, and with only one rehearsal run-through and critique the previous day, everyone did a superb job. There was a wide range of projects; everything from healthcare (robot-assisted healthcare, with Mabu!) to wine to education to materials engineering. It was the groups’ day to shine, and they did. They were able to brag, to impress, to highlight, to inform, and with the varied nature of the projects it never became dry or dragged.

Commencement was also wonderful. Of course, I have many favorite parts when it comes to commencement, the biggest of which is seeing all my former students receive their diploma and the huge smiles on their face knowing they have made the journey successfully to this point. It’s a highlight of my career and a privilege I take quite seriously to be able to sit on the stage and be part of the ceremony that they earned. To see any of my students walk across the stage and formally graduate, but with this being our first cohort, it was a secret triumph for all involved; faculty, staff, students, support, everyone.

I have to also say, however, that I always really enjoy seeing the wide range of regalia the faculty brings to these events. So many different designs, colors, symbols, it’s always fantastic and adds a real splash of excitement to the proceedings.

A rainbow of regalia

A rainbow of regalia

And with it being a design program, our students were equally involved in creating unique, individual and personalized mortarboards. My favorite was the one that actually lit up and had a Disney theme. The battery pack was underneath on top of her head, so i can’t imagine it was too comfortable, but that’s the price you pay, the sacrifice you make, for fashion!

Cap design

Cap design

So when it all came together and they were finally able to present their projects at our big career fair on Friday, and graduate at commencement on Saturday, to say their sense of accomplishment, and no doubt relief, was palpable, would be an understatement. they deserve all the congratulations, the praise, the high-fives, the future jobs they’ll have, and all the recognition that results from their time in the program.  My personal congratulations to everyone involved, the students most of all.

(If you would ike more information about the program, I have linked it in the first sentence of this post, but I’ll do it again here because I’m all about usability! UCI’s Master of Human Computer Interaction and Design).

University of California, Irvine, becomes leader in eSports

UCI LoL arena

My employer, the University of California, Irvine, has become the first university to open an eSports arena, which is really just a big room with a bunch of high-end PCs in it for networked game play, and have a top-ranked League of Legends team that will be awarded scholarships for their participation.

Other colleges and universities have had school-sponsored eSports teams before; Robert Morris University did so back in 2014, and others followed suit, however the arena is what sets us apart. A dedicated gaming facility created with the blessings and support of League of Legends developers Riot Games and machines supplied by boutique PC source iBuyPower (terrible website design trigger warning).

The arena can also be used by students who just want to do some gaming. And because we’re a university, there will be many, many opportunities for game-based research, something my own department does from many perspectives.

The official opening will be on Friday, September 23rd, and they are expecting about 1000 people. I’ve been in that room and that area of campus, and that would be quite the crowd, but it speaks highly of what they’re doing and what they’ve already accomplished.

Not easy to watch, but important

It might even be NSFW, but not for the reasons you think. I’m honestly not sure of a way to introduce this gently, so I’ll just tell you what it is.

Here at UCI, I receive via email a daily digest entitled “UCI in the NEWS.” Whenever a UCI member is cited in a news source, whether local, regional, national, scientific, or other, they are added to the digest and we can find out all the ways the expertise here is being shared with the world.  Usually I skim through it, sometimes clicking the summary link to find out more information.

The one I received today had a a story titled “UC Irvine doctor is live-streaming his colonoscopy.” How could I not watch that? Maybe get a pizza for the experience. Unfortunately, it happened at 8am the same day I received the email, so it was all over.

But you’re in luck! The page on which it was done is still up, and you can still watch the video. and while I’ve had a somewhat snarky attitude towards it thus far in this post, as the page explains it was all done for a very good cause. It provides some statistics about colorectal cancer, the importance of early detection (it can be treated *if* it’s found early), and for people who will need to be having the procedure done on themselves or a loved one soon, it might give you an idea of what to expect. You probably don’t want to know this, but I’ve been through it myself, and as I approach 50 it’s something I will need to be more aware of. It’s not a very pleasant thing, but it is absolutely an important thing, perhaps even a life-saving thing.

I’ve embedded the video below, and it *is* educational and a novel use of livestreaming, but I also really encourage you to visit the page and read about the importance of the procedure. Hopefully it helps some people get more comfortable with what will be an inevitable medical procedure eventually.

Going Up