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LSU College of Engineering Hosts Red Stick Festival’s Video Game Symposium

by Jeremy Harper
5.2.2017

The intersection of creativity and technology was on display recently as gaming and software industry leaders from around the country converged on the LSU campus to discuss the future of digital arts at the Red Stick Digital Festival’s Video Game Symposium.

The two-day symposium featured a series of panel discussions, group discussions and presentations with media leaders on the future skills needed in the game industry, along with demonstrations from game developers and software firms. The second-annual event was hosted by LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology and LSU’s Digital Media Arts & Engineering.

DMAE Program Director Marc Aubanel said the event aims to bring together “an experienced and diverse panel of guests who represent the collision of interactive and non-interactive industries that virtual and alternate reality represents.”

Here are some of highlights from the event.

Rogue Initiative Announces Plans for Baton Rouge Studio

The Rogue Initiative, a Los Angeles-based company that incorporates traditional storytelling with interactive virtual reality through film, television and video game productions. Founders Pete Blumel and Cathy Twigg used the event to announce that the company will launch a studio in Baton Rouge to develop interactive entertainment projects.

“With my strong ties as a Baton Rouge native, graduate of LSU and adviser to the LSU Digital Media Arts & Engineering program, we are excited to work with [Louisiana Economic Development] and expand The Rogue Initiative with a local production office,” Twigg said. “It's important to have the opportunity to mentor and foster local talent.”

The company said it is in the final stages of evaluating potential locations for its Baton Rouge operations and plans to begin local operations by November. The project will create 20 new direct jobs, with an average annual salary of $55,000, plus benefits, and LED estimates it will result in an additional 15 new indirect jobs.

Symposium Sessions

The symposium kicked off April 27 with a series of panel discussions on a range of topics. Jeff Skelton of EA Vancouver, who serves as technical director on the Frostbite team, held a workshop on the challenges of developing games with large teams. Mike Swanson, a longtime game developer who is a senior producer at Nvidia, offered his thoughts on what art technology trends will dominate the gaming industry over the next decade. And Chris Taylor, a well-known game designer and the founder of Gas Powered Games, offered a look back at his 30-year career as well as his thoughts on the state of the industry moving forward.

Elsewhere at the symposium, founders Robin Leboe and Rick Beaton showed off an early version of their audio startup Sessionwire, which lets musicians collaborate together in real time from any location regardless of the recording software they use. The founders later held a panel discussion moderated by LSU assistant professor Jesse Allison to discuss the future of music collaboration technology.

Student Showcase

The event also presented an opportunity for LSU students to showcase some of their own gaming work.

Digital arts major Melinda Buckner demoed “PaperBots,” a virtual-reality game she has been developing for her senior project. The stress-reducing game has four levels that determine the user’s Myers-Briggs Personality Type and then tailors different challenges to that personality type. Buckner said she plans to include additional tasks and environments to help users reduce anxiety, with a focus on people who may be reluctant initially to seek out professional help.

“You would have cognitive therapy or maybe a stress ball to relieve the stress meter, or you could go to your imaginary place, so your character would be less stressed out,” she said.

Down the hall computer science seniors Bryson Toups and Trever Berryman showed off a virtual-reality horror game their team created for the Digital Media Capstone class. In the game users wake up in a spaceship after a long cryogenic sleep; they must explore the environment, where they encounter creepy environments and characters.

The seven-member team collaborated with other artists, audio technicians and voice actors to create the game over the course of the semester. Berryman said the biggest challenge was fine-tuning the immersive environment to create a quality user experience, a task the team found more challenging than in an ordinary 3D game. “It’s really hard to make things scary in VR,” Berryman said. “If you don’t do it right it feels wrong. It took a lot of trial and error.”

The importance of cultivating a sense of perspective was a common theme throughout the event, connecting the various disciplines that were representing around a common drive for innovation. It truly was a celebration of Louisiana’s achievements in science, technology and art.

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