Intel® University Games Showcase at GDC 2015

We had a fantastic time at the Intel® University Games Showcase at GDC 2015! The teams representing their university game development programs were highly qualified, highly motivated, and highly enthusiastic. The venue was electric! The event featured student teams from 10 universities with top-ranked game developer programs competing for $35,000 in hardware prizes from Intel. Represented were Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), DigiPen Institute of Technology, Drexel University, New York University (NYU), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (SMU), University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, University of Texas at Austin, University of Utah, and University of Southern California.

The 10 demos (all of which were presented on Intel® graphics-powered laptops) were amazing/inspiring/awesome, but let me just cut to the chase and announce the winners.

Best Gameplay:

  • 1st place ($10,000): Ice-Bound: A Novel of Reconfiguration, UC Santa Cruz
  • 2nd place ($5,000): Not Everything is Flammable, CMU
  • 3rd place ($2,500): Super Slash ‘n Grab, The Guildhall at SMU

Best Visual Quality:

  • 1st place ($10,000): Super Daryl Deluxe, RIT
  • 2nd place ($5,000): Badblood, NYU
  • 3rd place ($2,500): SubRay, DigiPen

Intel will award hardware grants to the winning teams’ universities in the amounts listed above. These grants will allow them to choose from Intel® processor-based game development hardware that spans the gamut of form factors, from Android* phones and tablets and Ultrabook™ systems, to desktops with Intel® Iris™ graphics and Intel® Xeon® processor-powered servers.


A crowd of well over 300 attended the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC 2015, making it one of the bigger events of the conference.

The judges took quite a courageous stand in awarding “Best Gameplay” to Ice-Bound. This game is described by developers Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe from UC Santa Cruz as “an interactive narrative that combines a printed art book with a digital game. Inspired by the dense, labyrinthical texture of books like Nabokov's Pale Fire and Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, the nested story concerns a long-dead author's unfinished stories of doomed polar explorers and the digital ghost created to complete them. Merging cutting-edge technology for interactive storytelling and a book brought to life with augmented reality, Ice-Bound asks where the boundary is between a book and a game and is for anyone who loves getting lost in a story.”


UC Santa Cruz took first place in Best Gameplay for Ice-Bound

The game begins with an Apple iPad* app and uses innovative features like augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and real-world interaction to create a unique gameplay experience. The game can only be completed with the help of a printed book, the Ice-Bound Compendium. Some of the features of the book include a nested-doll narrative that reveals more depth the more it's explored, a dynamic conversation with an intriguing, reactive character, augmented reality overlays that add another layer to the book, and much more.

Screen shot from Ice-Bound: A Novel of Reconfiguration

Aaron and Jacob told the judges and the crowd that they came together to work on this product because of their eerily similar backgrounds in writing and game development. After the announcement of the prize, Aaron and Jacob were whisked away from the after-party by someone in the audience who wanted to talk to them about investing in their game! You can find out more about this game at

Augmented reality overlays in Ice-Bound: A Novel of Reconfiguration

The audience loved that the judges selected Super Daryl Deluxe as the Best Visual Quality award winner. Developers Gary Porter and Dan Plate from RIT combined some rollickin’ and hilarious game play with an entertaining and distinctive art style unlike anything else shown at the Intel University Games Showcase previously. Gary and Dan describe the game as “a 2D slapstick action-RPG for PC that puts the controls in your hands to climb the social ladder all over again at Water Falls High School – but don’t get too confident, you’re starting from scratch as a filthy new kid. You’ve gotta do everything everyone tells you if you plan on becoming popular and saving the world from a deranged self-help writer bent on enslaving the human race. Team up with the janitor, travel through time and space, and collect dozens of unique social skills to construct your own combat system and fight your way to the top!”

Super Daryl Deluxe has a distinctive visual style that adds to the uproariously fun game play

Gary and Dan are both from Waterloo, NY and have been best friends since high school. (Editor: I wonder if this game is their way of exorcising painful high school memories?) Gary is a fourth-year student at RIT majoring in game design and development, and Dan is a fourth-year illustration major. The talented duo gained further accolades, recently winning top honors at the U.S. National Finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup on April 23. They will be going on to represent the U.S. in the world semifinals in July. You can find out more and download a free demo at the game’s website:


The RIT team won first place in Best Image Quality for Super Daryl Deluxe

In addition to winning trophies and hardware grants for their schools, the two first-place winners were asked to tape an interview with Steve Waskul of on the GDC show floor. These interviews will be available for viewing on the web site. Both teams had continuous smiles as they described the joy and excitement they felt when they heard that they had claimed the first-place prizes against extremely tough competition.

For the first time in its (short, 2-year) history, the Intel University Games Showcase had an all-female panel of judges, including Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association and Diana Ford, Lecturer at Stanford. (OK, at least this evened the scales after the all-male judging panel in 2014.) New to the format this year, the judges spent three minutes asking questions of the student teams after they had completed their five minute presentations. This allowed the judges and the audience to get more insight in to the teams and their games.

Our distinguished all-female judging panel from L to R: Kate Edwards, Margaret Wallace, Laila Shabir, Dana Hanna, Diana Ford, Caitlyn Meeks, Nicole Lazzaro

Audience members got into the fun with Intel prize giveaways culminating in a twitter contest for a Cyberpower Zeus Hercules* laptop powered by Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics that was exactly the same as the ones used by the student project teams to demonstrate their games at the event.

Special thanks are due Chas Boyd of Microsoft who gave the keynote presentation called Learning the Language: The Next Generation of Graphics API. Chas described how DirectX* 12 not only introduces a new type of API architecture for games and graphics-intensive workloads, but it also reduces the learning curve for GPU programming. (Intel has been working directly with Microsoft on the new DirectX 12 definitions, and we’re anxious for game developers to experience it on Intel graphics hardware!)

Some of the top tweets describing the evening:

If you missed the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC 2015, by gum, DON’T miss it at GDC 2016! It will be bigger and better than ever!

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