If you like fantastical adventures, magical forests, and symphonic music, you might enjoy Crescendo, a 2D combat-action video game developed by USC students as part of the Advanced Games Program, or AGP. Crescendo players control an enchanted fairy-like “conductor” in a whimsical red hood as they battle their way through an eerie magical forest, encountering strange creatures and wielding powerful musical abilities. The dynamic classical music soundtrack sets Crescendo apart from other combat games, creating a mood that’s mystical, ethereal, melodic, and otherworldly.
Crescendo is one of 10 projects created in the stand-out AGP course, where students work in cross-disciplinary teams to create fully playable games with polished animation and novel, creative storylines. Kathleen Moulton, a USC Viterbi student majoring in computer science and the director of Crescendo, cites her love for classical music as the inspiration for Crescendo.
“I love dramatic, over the top classical music, and it sounded like the perfect soundtrack for a combat game to me,” Moulton said. “I wanted to give the player the feeling of conducting or performing music through their actions in combat and I hope players have fun exploring a musical world and walk away feeling the emotions and intensity contained in classical music.”
Crescendo was one of over 60 video games and other interactive projects featured on March 15 in the USC Games Expo, an online showcase celebrating and exhibiting the game design work of USC students, alumni, and faculty. Presented by the USC Games Program and sponsored by award winning entertainment company Jam City, the USC Games Expo is the largest university-sponsored gaming and esports event in the world.
Danny Bilson, director of USC Games and chair of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games Division, kicked off the exciting event with an acknowledgement of the innovative and impressive work of students poised to be pioneers in the game design industry. “Even in these unprecedented times, our faculty and most importantly, our students have continued to develop groundbreaking games in the great tradition of the USC Games program,” Bilson said, “What you’re going to see today is really amazing.”
The 2021 Games Expo was live-streamed over Twitch, and attendees who tuned in to the full day event watched trailers and demos of a diverse range of PC, console, and VR games. Prominent figures in the gaming industry dropped in throughout the stream to try out the games live, with appearances including game designer, commentator, and player Sean Plott, twitch streamer and e-sports reporter Becca Scott, and famous YouTube gaming personality Jesse Cox, Thousands of viewers tuned in to get a glimpse into the work of the game designers and developers of the future from the leading game design program in the country.
The 2021 Games Expo represents the annual culmination of the stand-out USC Games program, featuring the most innovative and exciting games and projects produced over the past year. Ranked the top game design program in North America by the Princeton Review, USC Games is a joint initiative between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Computer Science Department and the USC School of Cinematic Arts’s Interactive Media & Games Division (IMGD). The program offers a comprehensive and diverse curriculum aimed to prepare students to excel in the game design industry.
Other games from the AGP course highlighted at the expo include Wheelin’ and Mealin’, The Trials of Snowshoe Thompson, Pelota, and Sweeping the Ruins. Wheelin’ and Mealin’ director Connor Aguilar credits AGP and USC Viterbi for making possible the creation and development of the unique two player PC game that combines the high-octane gameplay of car racing games with the strategic and creative gameplay of cooking games.
“Without my technical foundation in USC Viterbi I don’t think I would have had the ability to learn and grow as a developer outside of my classes or the skills needed to eventually be able to pitch this game,” Aguilar said. “And of course, with the tightening of the bond between USC Viterbi and the USC Cinema school to improve the USC Games program, I felt incredibly encouraged to pitch and develop my wacky idea.”
Benjamin Haderle, Snowshoe Thompson’s creative director, echoes Aguilar’s sentiment.
“Snowshoe Thompson absolutely would not have happened without AGP. The class’s structure, the faculty’s experience, and the students’ passion sets USC AGP apart,” Haderle said. “I don’t know of any other school that even attempts to put out games of this scale consistently at quality.”