Videogames and Architecture: USI becomes Unreal Academic Partner of Epic Games


Institutional Communication Service

4 February 2022

It has been said that the most powerful graphics engine in the world is our imagination. But what if there were such advanced tools capable of rapidly transforming our vision into virtual reality? This is what the students attending the Advanced Digital Representation course, with architect and professor Giovanni Balestra at the USI Academy of Architecture, can achieve through software that allows them to generate ultra-realistic images. This work was appreciated by Epic Games, the U.S. gaming firm which, in June 2021, chose USI as Unreal Academic Partner. A real first in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.

Epic Games is one of the world leaders in the video game sector, known for its highly popular games like Battleroyal Fortnite. In these video games the architectural contextualization of the different themes and strategies that make up the action and narrative of the game plays a central and connotative role.

The works of the students of the USI Academy of Architecture reproduce very high quality 3D architectural objects, graphic spaces, scenarios and virtual reality animations, which can then be put into larger contexts such as video games. The ultra-realistic images are realized through advanced software capable of generating, in real time, these virtual elements and make them communicate within a system. A model in real time can, for example, be updated with new design elements and displayed just as quickly.

All this fits into the current context where video games are considered cultural goods that convey experiences and generate discussions and debates. The video game production in recent years has come to cover a wide array of content comparable to film or literature, which is articulated on several levels: narrative (story), formal (graphic universe), proper modes of interaction or participation (how the player should act in the game) and choice of interfaces (e.g. PC, smartphone, console or virtual reality device).

"The design of the action space is unlimited, creative and stimulating in terms of design simulation, both in the landscape and territorial dimension and in the architectural one, for external volumes and interior settings", explains Giovanni Balestra, architect and professor of Digital Representation at the USI Academy of Architecture. "A reality that provides to the future architects a field of study and application of vast potential - also with respect to the job market - and stimulates research and training".

As an Unreal Academic Partner, USI is now part of the Epic Games network of academic partners, which guarantees exclusive access to applications and subscriptions from the various players involved (such as SketchFab, Quixel, leading companies in models and digital textures) and finally offers promotion through Epic Games online channels. All this wil provide students with the essential tools to be prepared for an evolving and highly competitive job market.