Video Games Developer to Computer Scientist at ICT

Published: April 1, 2024
Category: News | Essays
Eddie Fast, Computer Scientist, ICT

By Eddie Fast, Computer Scientist, ICT

Eddie Fast joined ICT in 2003 as a computer scientist, and has worked on many of our major projects including Rapid Integration and Development Environment (RIDE) and Virtual Human Toolkit. Here he talks about growing up playing video games and then making a career out of developing them, for companies including Sunset Entertainment and JVC Digital Arts Studio – before bringing those immersive industry computing skills to ICT. 21 years later, he also takes a look at what he’s most proud of from his project slate at ICT. 

“Nobody is going to pay you to play video games,” my father would say.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I played many video games. Probably too many. When it came down to picking a career, I thought it would be a great idea to work in the games industry, despite what my father said. 

Which is exactly what I did. After graduating from college, with a BS in Computer Science, I got a job in the video game industry, working on games for the PC, Xbox (the original, not the Xbox One), PS2, and GameBoy.

But the industry was tough. Whole studios would go out of business if the publisher thought you weren’t making enough progress. There wasn’t a bustling independent games industry like there is today..

Joining ICT 

So when I got the job at USC Institute for Creative Technologies in 2003, it felt… different.

It wasn’t video games. However, it used a lot of the same technology, and the same terminology.

But what do I tell people that I do? 

It varies from: 

“It’s a University Affiliated Research…”

“It has something to do with the military…”

“Military Simulations…” 

OR: “I make video games for the Army.”

But even that is not a fair description. I know that trivializes all the incredible work done here at ICT.  But, it at least passes the elevator pitch.

Mission Rehearsal Exercise

My first task at ICT was to get our flagship product, Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE) working on Windows. It ran in our immersive VR Theater, with three projectors displaying the application on a curved display.

MRE was initially written to run on a huge SGI mainframe computer. It took up an entire closet. However, the personal computer industry was miniaturizing at a breakneck speed. A desktop computer could match the performance of our SGI, and make development much easier.

With my experience developing Windows video games, I was able to get the application running, and it felt like a great accomplishment.

Shifting Platforms 

Throughout the years, the industry has continued to miniaturize. From laptops to tablets, to phones, to tiny little screens right in front of your eyeballs. In order to target all these platforms, we’ve relied on game engines to help deliver our projects.

After porting MRE to Windows, we adopted the Unreal Engine. Now, this was 2004, way before Fortnite was a thing. Still, it allowed us to rapidly develop our projects, and build capabilities on top of it.

Using Unreal Engine 2.5, we created unique curved projection shaders to adjust the display to account for our curved screen in the Theater. The projectors overlapped each other at the seams, and we created blur shaders to make this transition appear seamless. We used multiplayer networking to allow units and objects to traverse across the seams without any jumping. We integrated our own custom character animation system, SmartBody, to give our Virtual Humans lifelike animations and lip-sync.

Projects & Platforms

As the years went by, MRE turned into the Virtual Human Toolkit, which multiple projects were based on, both inside ICT and out. As the Toolkit became easier to use, the number of projects exploded.

Over my time, so far, at ICT, here are some of the projects I’m most proud of:

Gunslinger – Virtual Humans meets the Wild West (2011)

VITA: Helping High Functioning Autism Students Learn Job-Related Skills (2014)

Canvas – Virtual Humans as cartoons in learning vignettes for the Smithsonian Institute (2020)

Nowadays, my focus is on the Rapid Integration & Development Environment (RIDE).

Rapid Integration & Development Environment (2019 – Present)

In a lot of ways, RIDE brings my experience at ICT together into a single product:

  • Building on top of modern game engines, using all the power and flexibility they provide.
  • Targeting multiple platforms.
  • Supplying Multiplayer networking out of the box.
  • Providing capabilities that benefit military simulations.

Everything wrapped in a single environment that makes development easy to use for developers.

It’s been an incredible journey working here at ICT. I’ve been able to work with some really cutting edge technology and it’s been a blast. Here’s hoping the journey may continue for many years to come!



Eddie Fast, Computer Scientist, ICT, joined the institute in 2003 and has worked on many of its major projects including Rapid Integration and Development Environment (RIDE) and Virtual Human Toolkit. Previously, he was a video games developer, at both Sunset Entertainment and JVC Digital Arts Studio, and holds a BS, Computer Science, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and a certification in 3D Graphics Programming from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).