University of Southern California

ID 657740
Updated 2/24/2017
Version Latest




The USC GamePipe Laboratory has participated in the Intel University Games Showcase since it was created.

The GamePipe Laboratory faculty looks at the games being built in its Advanced Games course and other games shown at its Showcase, and then they agree on which game is the best. That game is the one that goes to IUGS, and this year it is “Arkology.”



The Team:

Core members:

  • Powen Yao – Team lead responsible for overall design, research, and production
  • Thomas Kao – Engineer responsible for overall project, architecture, network
  • Joey Hou – Engineer responsible for overall project, gameplay
  • Tiffany Shen – Artist responsible for models, textures, effects
  • Grace Guo – Developer responsible for user interface, user experience
  • Qing Mao – Technical artist responsible for 3D art, tech art, effects
  • Eric Huang – Gameplay engineer

Newly-joined members:

  • Leo Sheng – Gameplay engineer
  • Jian Zhang – AI engineer
  • Subhayu Chakravorty – Gameplay engineer

Former members:

  • Divyanshu Bhardwaj – Gameplay engineer
  • Christine Gong – Gameplay engineer
  • Yue Wang – Gameplay engineer
  • Guangxi Jin – Gameplay engineer

The Inspiration:

Powen Yao says: “As a PhD student under Professor Michael Zyda, I've been studying artificial intelligence in games and recently in virtual reality interaction. Real-time strategy provides a great platform for research and demonstration of game AI. My recent foray into virtual reality interaction led to my belief that it has great potential that could be unlocked with a combination of novel interaction techniques supported by AI. My interests in the two areas led to ‘Arkology,’ a virtual reality real-time strategy game. Right now, there are many virtual reality games in the market featuring swordplay or gun fights, but we want to take the game in a different direction. Instead of simply using the player's controllers to represent a gun or a sword, we are examining ways for the player to better process information and to effectively interact with many game elements at once. In other words, to design a real-time strategy game specifically for virtual reality to provide players with a unique virtual reality experience.

The Game:

In “Arkology,” the player has been chosen as the commander of Ark, a massive space-faring arcology designed to preserve humanity's continued prosperity and survival. The player can control the game using simple and intuitive motion control. 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. The game can be described as a real-time tabletop war game where players need to control their miniature game pieces to fight the opposing force. A player's goal is to achieve the mission objective ranging from defending a valuable target to annihilating the enemy force.

Thematically, we want our players to feel like military commanders making strategic decisions and seeing their plans come to life. We want the players to feel like generals in World War II movies drafting their invasion plans over the map of Europe. We want to let the players live the scenes from the movie “Ender's Game” where the commander's will and orders get carried out by his officers.

Our focus for this project is in exploring novel virtual reality interactions to best utilize the fact that players have access to a three-dimension world. We are developing a series of virtual gears that will help a player better command an army and survey the battlefield. Some examples of what we have or are working on:

  • Adaptable controller for the player to quickly change the functionality for the situation at hand.
  • Augmented vision goggle to let the player see or hide additional game stats and information.
  • A utility-belt for players to store and access game elements.
  • Customizable battlefield camera and screen for players to monitor the battlefield.

Development and Hardware:

Professor Zyda says, “Having hardware donated from Intel helps our program out enormously and gives our students access to hardware of the future!”