GPM MS Featured on Waypoint Presents

By on Oct 6, 2017 in News |

Students from the GPM MS were the focus of the latest episode of Waypoint Presents, a documentary series about games and culture currently airing on Disney XD.  The episode offers a unique insight into our program and the lives of our students as they showcase the games they’ve spent the past academic year building.  The video is available on Waypoint’s Youtube page. Spearheaded by longtime gaming critic and editor-in-chief Austin Walker, Waypoint is VICE’s home for gaming culture, built to explore how and why we play. Through original video, editorial, podcasts, and streams, Waypoint looks beyond the press and product cycles to focus on the people, passion, and politics of gaming. They pride themselves on their thoughtful criticism, investigative reporting, and personal storytelling—all of which is built on a core understanding: Games are more than products we buy on a shelf, they’re an important part of our lives.  For more, visit or one of the site’s many redirect URLs....

GPM Faculty Discuss Future Trends at Indiecade

By on Oct 6, 2017 in News |

Many videogames are designed to draw the player ever deeper into the world of the game. At Katherine Isbister’s Social Emotional Technology Lab at UC Santa Cruz, however, researchers are interested in games that draw players’ attention to the world around them and create different ways of engaging with other people. “My lab is interested in how we can use technology to heighten in-person interactions and engage people with what’s around them rather than separating them,” said Isbister, a professor of computational media. One game from Isbister’s lab, called SceneSampler, is among the official game selections to be demonstrated at the 2017 IndieCade Festival taking place October 6 to 8 in Los Angeles. Known as the “Sundance of the videogame industry,” Indiecade celebrates independent games and is open to the public and the game industry. The SceneSampler demo will be part of IndieCade’s signature Night Games event on Friday night. Isbister will also be joining Michael John, director of UCSC’s Games & Playable Media master’s program, on an IndieCade panel to discuss future trends in independent games. Isbister will be talking about the growing use of wearable technology and custom hardware in new games. “With the whole maker movement, the components and kits for building your own hardware have gotten cheaper and more accessible, so it’s a lot easier for independent developers to put together interesting projects with different kinds of controllers,” Isbister said. “We offered a class on alternative controllers last year, which got a lot of interest from students, and we built custom components for the game we’ll be showing at the festival.” SceneSampler is a collaborative game in which players work in pairs to capture scenes from the festival in an unusual way. One player wears a custom-built old-timey ‘camera’ with a hidden embedded tablet device, while the other carries a sound sampler that detects ambient noise, which looks like an old-fashioned flash unit. Player teams are given challenges to find a specific kind of scene, such as a silent crowd, and record it by filling up the sampler with ambient noise and taking a snapshot with their camera. They bring their samples back to the game master, who marks their scene on a large map, building up a visualization of the social soundscape of the festival. Players’ images are also uploaded onto social media where people can see these sampled moments from the festival. “The idea is to get people to move around the festival capturing mementos like a scavenger hunt, and you end up with a photo stream that is a different kind of record of what was happening,” Isbister said. “People can take on as many challenges as they like, and then get a photo taken of their team. It’s a pretty casual, free-form experience, meant to build connections between players as they experience IndieCade.” SceneSampler was previously featured at Come Out & Play, a festival of street games held in New York City in...

CtrlShift named best “sleeper hit” of E3 by Ars Technica

By on Jun 19, 2017 in News |

We are pleased to announce that student game CtrlShift was named “sleeper hit” of last week’s E3 conference by the editors of Ars Technica.  You can watch the announcement on Ars Technica’s website.  CtrlShift, as well as undergraduate game Phantom Jump, were also featured in an Ars Technica article highlighting indie games at E3. A local co-op game that uses both a PC and a VR headset, CtrlShift puts players in the role of a hacker or a spy respectively.  Each player has a different and limited set of information, with the hacker getting access to a functional computer terminal while the spy surveys his surroundings in the VR headset.  The two players must work together to sneak past guards and hack the enemy mainframe in a fight for humanity.  You can learn more about CtrlShift at We at the Games and Playable Media MS are proud of Team Hive’s achievements and look forward to their continued...

Student Game Ulama Now Available on Steam

By on Apr 19, 2017 in News |

Ulama:  Arena of the Gods, a thesis game developed by Pedro Cori, Alexander Formoso, and Cong Liu, is now available to purchase on Steam Early Access.  The game was greenlit by the Steam community in just 15 days through Valve’s Steam Greenlight service. The gameplay is based on an ancient ballgame played by the Aztec and Mayan people. Only instead of people playing the games, the many deities that populate the myths of the ancient cultures face off.  According to Creative Director Cori. “My father used to read from me from these illustrated books of myths and legends from Mesoamerican cultures,” Cori said. “When we were told we could make a game about whatever we wanted, I thought a ball game that incorporated these stories could work.” While Cori developed the thematic aspects of the game, the rest of the team worked to bring his vision to life. “This is how it worked: Pedro would come into the room and would tell us about this awesome idea,” Formoso said. “I would look at Cong and ask him, ‘How much time do you need to build that?’” Cong Liu would give an estimate and Formoso would give it a thumbs up or down. “I was the technical director of the team,” said Liu. “We’d have some technical issues and decisions to make about what kind of approach to the gameplay and that kind of stuff. And I’m responsible for the development and implementation for several of the core functions.” Liu—the “coding wizard”—also developed the artificial intelligence for the game. Since graduating from the Silicon Valley-based master’s program last year, Liu was hired by Google, joining the team developing the company’s nascent virtual reality (VR) product line. Liu commends the UC Santa Cruz program, and said the project he undertook with his two teammates was an integral aspect of being able to land his dream job. “When I was interviewing with Google, they were asking about my project, about Ulama, my responsibilities, and what code I was contributing,” he said. “That project, with Pedro and Alex, it was a really good thing for me.” Cori agrees. He, too, is launching his own career in gaming, working for a VR gaming company in Seattle called Against Gravity. He has begun work on a VR game called Rec Room, which features the ability to play different recreational games in a virtual reality with the incorporation of a multi-player format. “Ulama was a gold star on my portfolio,” Cori said. Formoso works as a game programmer with Bohemia Interactive in the Czech Republic. “Anybody can pay to put their game on Steam Greenlight, but the fact that we got approved says something,” Formoso said. And while the three teammates undertook the master’s program and chose a commercial project for the express purpose of advancing their fledgling careers, they can’t help but be excited to see what happens now that Ulama is live. “It’s exciting,” Formoso said. “You can go to Steam and our game is there next to Infinity Warfare.” Cori says the game won’t supplant Call of Duty or other popular de-facto multi-player games that dominate the market, but the game, which resembles the gameplay one finds in Smash Bros. or Rocket League, will be fun for people to play together. “We built a casual, fun game—a family game,” he said. “We envision a bunch of friends on the couch playing at party. That’s good enough for us.” We at the Games and Playable Media MS are proud of Pedro, Alex, and Liu’s success and we wish them the best on their next...

Team Trainwreck Games Wins Game Jam Competition at E3

By on Jun 22, 2016 in News |

Trainwreck Games, consisting of grad students Pedro Cori, Alexander Formoso, and Cong Liu, recently won $10,000 as the winner of the Social Connection GameJam, a game design competition sponsored by the AARP and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The competition, held in conjunction with the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), the world’s largest computer and video game event, challenged student game designers to develop new game ideas that promote positive and sustainable social connection among users, particularly for people age 50 and older. “This is a big achievement for the team, and a significant honor for the program,” said Michael John, director of the UCSC Games and Playable Media master’s degree program. “We’re especially pleased because the competition was outside the usual game design parameters, and the team did some impressive research on the demographic they were designing for, including their existing gaming habits, the hardware and software they typically have access to, and their motivations.” Their game proposal, Letters of Mystery, is a cooperative email-based “escape the room” adventure. Escape the room games in the physical world involve a group of players locked in a room who have to find clues and solve puzzles together to unlock the door. In Letters of Mystery, players work together in groups to complete objectives, getting clues from a server and discussing actions to take among themselves before submitting answers. The team decided that using email as a platform made the most sense for the target demographic. “Most adults over 50 use email, but they don’t necessarily want to install apps or register for gaming sites,” Cori said. The students also learned from their research that competitiveness tends to decrease with age, and people start to look for more intellectually challenging games. “So we came up with the idea of escape the room games, which are age-neutral, cooperative games played in groups, and thought about how we could adapt them to this medium,” Cori said. They didn’t have to create a working prototype for the competition, but the team did create a detailed mock-up of the game for pitching it to the judges. Letters of Mystery was a side project for the Trainwreck Games team, which has been focused on their capstone project for the master’s program, a game called Ulama: Arena of the Gods. The AARP/ESA Social Connection GameJam was produced with the support of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA). AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said games can help family and friends stay connected with one another. “The Social Connection GameJam demonstrates the innovative ways that video games foster social connections and enable us to keep in touch with each other,” she said. “AARP congratulates GameJam finalists for their creativity in bringing to life new games that foster social interaction.” “The AARP/ESA Game Jam was an unprecedented opportunity for our industry’s next generation of video game developers to push boundaries and expand the understanding of who plays video games,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, which represents the U.S. video game industry and owns...

AURA shows at Intel University Games Showcase

By on Apr 1, 2016 in News |

Student game AURA, a musical shooter made by GPM alumni Patrick Trinh and Lun Cao, was featured as part of the Intel University Games Showcase during the 2016 Game Developers Conference.  The event celebrated the innovation and achievements of games developed by college students and teams, with awards given to the games who excelled in both gameplay and visual quality.  We are delighted that Patrick and Lun were chosen to represent our program. You can learn more about the event on VentureBeat. To learn more about AURA visit