October 31, 2012

“Unfinished Swan” Lands at Sony

SCA alumni score three game deal with game studio

The Unfinished Swan is one of the most recent games from USC’s Interactive Media Division to make a splash in the commercial world. In the game, players are dropped into an all-white world and equipped with paintballs to shoot at the walls. As the paint splatters on the world, the geometry is revealed and the player can navigate the landscape.

The project was designed by alumni Ian Dallas and Max Geiger ‘08 and oversaw by Professor Mark Bolas. Dallas is committed to continuing his vision from his days in IMD within his professional life.

“We hope to maintain the indie spirit,” commented Dallas. “I think that was my expectation. My interests aren’t primarily commercial. My interest is primarily creating experiences that people haven’t had. When you make an indie game, there’s an expectation that you are going to find a passionate but smaller audience. I’m more interested, personally, in exploring things that haven’t been done before. Our fans appreciate things that are different.”

About The Unfinished Swan, Bolas says “You lob paintballs with your hand or -in this case- a game controller, out into a void.” “You start in a pure, white world. When they land on something in the world, let’s say a wall, they splat on a wall. It’s by painting a wall that you can see, ‘hey, there’s a wall there.’”

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When asked about cutting-edge games like The Unfinished Swan being commercially viable, Bolas commented, “We’re right on the cusp of virtual reality being in homes. Unfinished Swan is an example of the content being ripe for giving people these experiences. On the same token, there are a number of commercial and research projects that are right on the edge of being really viable for the main stream. It’s getting into the popular mind.”

The Interactive Media Division is the only program of its kind tied to a cinematic arts school and offers unprecedented opportunities for students to explore media convergence in an environment that leverages the natural advantages of its Los Angeles setting.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a place that we’re not being pushed into making something that we aren’t interested in making,” said Geiger. “At IMD, we were pushed to do interesting experiences and to do interesting things in the realm that we call ‘games’ that might not actually be games. It was great training for what we do now.”

USC was voted the #1 game design school in North America for its graduate and undergraduate degree programs by the Princeton Review and GamePro Media in 2012. This distinction was jointly awarded to the School of Cinematic Arts' Interactive Media Division and the Viterbi School of Engineering's Department of Computer Science.

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