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The Maestros Of Indie Development

Andy Gause |
April 3, 2014 | 11:39 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

In an unassuming room in Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL), amidst two dozen computers, a pair of coffee machines, and game posters, lies the USC Games Lab.

This 24-hour Lab, also known as the Game Pipe, houses a team from USC’s Advanced Games Class, a class that brings together students from Viterbi School of Engineering's Department of Computer Science with the School of Cinematic Art's Interactive Media students to create playable games, described by the class as an incubator for professional-level projects.

If the USC Lab were an actual full-time development company, it would be the third largest in LA and would cost about $300,000 to pay the teams at work. 

For the Spring 2014 semester, seven games have undergone development with anywhere from ten to fifty people working on each game, including testers, programmers, artists, and volunteer guinea pigs. Many of these helpers didn't even have to attend USC to provide their input. Some come from nearby interactive media programs, while others are freelancers from countries as diverse as Argentina, the UK, Australia, and Canada. 

One such game is The Maestros, a 3x3 multiplayer Real-Time Strategy game with what the creators call a “hand-painted aesthetic.” The game has a bold, cool color palette, with a lot of purples and turquoises moving across the screen. The game also features some tongue-in-cheek character designs: one character is simply a trashcan with cobbled together appendages. 

In terms of game play, the player controls a unique commander who, similar to League of Legends, has their own special moves, along with several smaller minions who can transform into different forms with the help of power nods on the battlefield. The goal is simple: destroy the enemy's commanders. Each character has a limited amount of times they can respawn after dying, and the first team to run out of respawns loses. 

The development team strove for a Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos strategic feel, but with less of the drawn-out resource managing and more of the intense one on one action seen in DOTA 2 and League of Legends. An average multiplayer game runs about five minutes, perfect for quick drop-in sessions. 

The time commitment for the project has been extensive, about 10-15 hours a week outside of class. Some members have even slept in the 24/7 Lab to meet certain milestones, like the recent Demo Day, where industry professionals come to check out the games, and the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC). But each member of the Maestros team claims the time is worth it, to be working in a professional development setting and to have a playable game at the end of the class are more than worthy incentives to give up free time and sleep. 

The team hopes to release Maestros in May, before the end of the semester and class.

Follow their facebook page here for updates and check out their main site here.


Contact Andy Gause at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter here 



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