• HI THERE, I'M MARK

    I make interactive things.

  • ABOUT ME

    student / developer / designer

    I'm a Senior studying Computer Science (Games) with a minor in Screenwriting at the University of Southern California. I'm an avid player of just about anything - from Catan to Grand Theft Auto to Kentucky Route Zero to Pandemic.

     

    Along with a background in programming C++ and Java across games, mobile projects, and standalone applications, I have experience in game and UX design - both on the board and on the screen. Particularly, I'm a sucker for design that facilitates player-driven stories or fast-paced, competitive gameplay. Also, I love film dearly, and have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of TV. Ask me about my turntable and slowly growing vinyl collection.

     

    Bonus Fun Fact: All of the project logos below, with the exception of The Maestros, were designed by me.

  • GAME PROJECTS

    Here's a few game projects where I had a prominent role in Programming + Design + Project Management

    Icarus

    A unique aerial combat game for virtual reality.

    Project Icarus is a first-person VR arena shooter where you ascend to greatness in a crucible of visceral and kinetic aerial combat. Rise above your enemies through intense engagements and leverage the power of VR with our unique lean motion system to tower above your opponents.

     

    The player is given control of a jetpack, which they can fly by throttling the controller and leaning in their direction of flight. This is done by dynamically estimating their lean origin, while still allowing for free movement, all while leveraging leaning to minimize motion sickness.

     

    Icarus is an advanced game project at USC. A large multidisciplinary team is working on the project, targeting a Steam release in May of 2019.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Directed vision for a multidisciplinary team of 40 engineers, designers, artists, producers, usability, and marketing students.
    • Documented player experience goals and presented game demos and vision to large groups of stakeholders.
    • Worked with production to increase velocity and parallelize content development pipelines.
    • Developed a team culture with a focus on sustainable work hours while hitting production targets.

     

    Prototype Responsibilities:

    • Iterated on locomotion controls to find a comfortable movement scheme that minimized motion sickness.
    • Integrated Photon PUN Networking API for multiplayer
    • Designed a level that takes advantage of flying afforded to the player while creating areas requiring skillful maneuvering on the part of the player.

    Here is an early gameplay demo of Icarus from late October 2017.

     

    Platform: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows MR

    Engine: Unity 2018

    Languages: C#

    Additional Tools: Photon PUN, Probuilder, Shader Graph, Photoshop

    Date: July 2017 - May 2019

     

    To demo Icarus, reach out to us at myampols@usc.edu

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Maestros

    A fast paced, Action-Strategy RTS where you control a commander building and transforming an army to become an unstoppable force on the battlefield.

    As part of the Maestros team, I joined as a dedicated User Interface / User Experience engineer. I joined the project as an intern with no knowledge in Flash/Scaleform or Unrealscript, and within six months, I had completed a top to bottom rehaul of the game menus and in-game HUD.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Worked with Flash and Scaleform to rebuild and design new, user friendly, and graphically appealing interfaces
    • Integrated a brand new progression system from scratch in the UI and in any pertinent front-end code
    • Worked with our network engineer to design and integrate a new account creation system with functional user verification

    Platform: Windows PC

    Engine: Unreal Engine + UDK

    Languages: Unrealscript, Flash, Actionscript 3

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

    Date: May 2016 - October 2018

     

    The Maestros is out now on Steam:

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/553560/The_Maestros/

     

    "a cool concept [...] an abbreviation of the standard RTS match that incorporates the best innovations of the MOBA genre."

    - PC Gamer

     

    "has the potential to challenge with new dynamics of strategy [...] and it certainly adds a freshness to the concept of RTS games."
    - MMORPG.com

     

    "immediately fun but promisingly deep"

    - Rock, Paper, Shotgun

     

    A devlog about my interface design process can be found here:

    http://blog.maestrosgame.com/post/151846703200/the-maestros-devlog-07-evolving-ui-visual

     

    Find out more at:

    http://maestrosgame.com/

     

     

     

     

     

    Sky Command

    Join a friend to fly a top secret military ship behind enemy lines, while you struggle to keep the ship together under fire in this installation-based VR adventure.

    On the Sky Command team, I led User Experience and Systems Design for the team. In this role, I focused on room-scale interactions that allowed the user to engage with the space while maintaining the immersion of the experience.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Designed and implemented elevator locomotion to enlarge playspaces while maintaining a 1:1 room footprint
    • Designed and integrated an AI companion for guiding new users through a room scale VR experience while introducing players to the game world and narrative.
    • Scripted modular, magnetic handles in VR that provide 1:1 visual feedback on user interactions while using mounted objects
    • Prototyped a modular repair system driven by atomic actions for placement by level designers

    Platform: HTC Vive

    Engine: Unity 2017

    Languages: C#

    Additional Tools: Photon PUN, Sabre CSG, VRTK, Adobe Photoshop

    Date: August 2017 - May 2018

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Intrepid

    A competitive 4X strategy board game where players take control of a fleet of expeditionary ships and explore the Vanguard system in a race to discover and colonize the habitable planet.

    Our game uniquely asks players to control two independent ships with their own resources as they explore a procedurally generated board that builds throughout the game. We've also built a deep card based combat system and a tailored story, both of which are tied to exploration, so as players explore the final frontier, they encounter perilous situations, quests, and build themselves into a formidable competitor on the intergalactic stage.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Rapidly prototyped an original game concept, creating the systems that served as a baseline for the current version.
    • Led a team of specialized designers to ensure a cohesive final product with deep systems.
    • Worked with our production artist to unify our design throughout the game.

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

    Date: April 2017

     

    Intrepid is currently testing it's third major iteration after a lengthy rebuild of our resource management, combat system, ship improvements, and the integration of 2-5 players. This prototype is still fairly new, so excuse the roughness. 

     

    Read our new 3.0 ruleset here:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SSr8bW-Nc9IXz5SovzfaQcf6TNDlZ7VQEmQbxsY7qgU/edit?usp=sharing

     

    You can see our old ruleset and our pre-3.0 production design here:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4s1kFi9CzgZUExobFVReDF1T3c/view?usp=sharing

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Don't Make A Sound

    An immersive room-scale VR horror game.

    Global Game Jam Los Angeles

    Best VR Game | Best Gameplay

     

    Don't Make A Sound is an immersive VR game for the HTC Vive, where the player is dropped in the shoes of a new lab technician. After waking up in the breakroom, the lab goes into lockdown and the player is forced into a game of hide and seek with a blind, bloodthirsty bat-monster.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Handled Level Design and Environmental Design to build an extreme sense of immersion
    • Worked with our design lead to create a challenging and terrifying monster for the player as the center of an echolocation-themed puzzle with significant in-level object interaction
    • Laid the design groundwork for the scripted event system and end-game puzzle

    Platform: HTC Vive

    Engine: Unity 5.5

    Languages: C#

    Date: January 2017

     

    Download the playable prototype here:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4s1kFi9CzgZY2hkVnpzU293TWM/view?usp=sharing

     

    **This game requires an HTC Vive

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Elevation

    A fast-paced 2v2 top-down shooter with dynamic levels.

    Elevation is a competitive top-down shooter where one player on each team takes control of a dynamic level while the other takes control of a shooter on the ground. As the two shooters fight it out, the level changes and evolves around them as other players raise and lower blocks to support their team.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Worked as design lead to build and refine a fast-paced, team-based game
    • Integrated varied gamepad-based control schemes based on player role
    • Developed User Interface and Brand Bible for the project

    Platform: Windows PC with 4 Controllers

    Engine: Unreal Engine 4

    Languages: C++, Blueprint

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

    Date: November/December 2016

     

    Download the playable prototype here:

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4s1kFi9CzgZVENSMjFVcDRxcUk

     

    **The prototype is still a bit buggy. Make sure all controllers are actively connected before launching and the game may crash after several minutes.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Character Selection Prototype

    A mockup prototype of a character selection screen for VR.

    This prototype is intended to demonstrate a possible concept for a character selection screen in VR. Dynamic character profiles are spawned throughout the playspace, which display spatial interfaces when picked up by the player. These are fully animated in UMG and display unit types, pictures, and biographies. Characters must place their chosen profile into the podium, which lights in three stages to confirm the selection. In a game build, profile blocks would be replaced with character-specific statues.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Developed dynamically populated Profile interface with UMG and Photoshop
    • Controlled motion transitions and animation through scripts in Unreal
    • Built an implementation that's scalable for up to 20 characters with interaction that takes advantage of the physicality of VR hardware

    Platform: PC

    Engine: Unreal Engine

    Languages: Blueprint

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop

    Date: May 2017

     

     

  • Written Work

    Here's some stuff I've written.

    Speculative Scene for Mad Men, written for "Three Sundays"

    Chronoscope​, An Outline for a Feature

  • DIGITAL PROJECTS

    Here's a few digital projects where I prominent role in Programming + UX Design

    Echo

    Networking made easier.

    Echo is an Android app that allows people to quickly build a digital business card, effortlessly exchange information with people, and build a portfolio of connections through Bluetooth technology.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Created wireframes, flow diagrams, and final interface designs in Android Studio and XML with Photoshop
    • Developed an intuitive, reactive button-based interface to highlight the exchange of information over Bluetooth
    • Contributed to documentation for front-end and application deployment

    Platform: Android

    IDE: Android Studio

    Languages: Java, XML

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

    Date: November 2016

     

    You can download the application from our repository here:

    https://github.com/riptide651/Echo

     

    **Running Echo requires launching it to a connected Android phone over Android Studio. Please read the deployment document in the Readme.

     

     

     

     

     

    WideAwake

    A more involved way for you to wake up.

    HackSC 2015

     

    WideAwake is a minimalist alarm clock for iOS designed to wake you up both physically and mentally. Once the alarm goes off, the user is unable to turn it off until they complete a short physical and a mental challenge. This forces people, like me, who have trouble getting out of bed to get moving and get thinking so they can wake up.

     

    Project Responsibilities:

    • Coordinated visual design with a brand bible and design direction to ensure a cohesive, user friendly application
    • Integrated iOS CoreMotion framework for driving physical activity sensors
    • Developed wireframes and flow diagrams for an intuitive, user-driven UI

    Platform: iOS

    IDE: xCode

    Languages: Swift, C#

    Additional Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator

    Date: November 2016

     

    You can download the application from our repository here:

    https://github.com/riptide651/WideAwake-HackSC

     

     

     

     

     

  • PUBLISHED RESEARCH

    Here's some published research work I've co-authored.

    Making Learning Fun: An Analysis of Game Design in Science Learning Games

    UCI-ISR-14-3 / October 2014

     

    This paper analyzes and draws quantitative and qualitative conclusions from playtesting twenty-six science learning games. Science Learning Games are defined as games where game mechanics or play are focused on the domain of scientific research and education.

     

    This paper was co-authored with:

    Walt Scacchi of UCI's Institute of Virtual Environments and Computer Games

    Ryan Lim of Northwood High School

     

    This paper can be read here:

    http://isr.uci.edu/sites/isr.uci.edu/files/techreports/UCI-ISR-14-3.pdf

     

     

    Learning game design and software engineering through a game prototyping experience: a case study

    ICSE GAS 2016

     

    This paper builds on a case study introduced in Making Learning Fun, focusing on the design process behind a game engineered from a compiled set of best practices discovered during the analysis of science learning games.

     

    This paper was co-authored with:

    Walt Scacchi of UCI'S Institute of Virtual Environments and Computer Games

     

    This paper can be read here:

    http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2896965