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LJ and FIEA crew review the motion-capture footage
LJ in front of cameras
LJ at his surprise birthday party
The completed game
LJ meeting with FIEA Student

UCF Video Game Designers Answer Make-a-Wish Call

UCF's Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy helps 10-year-old L.J. realize his dream.

Spring 2014
LJ meeting with FIEA Student
LJ reviewing storyboards
LJ looking at his game
LJ recording his voice for his character
LJ in Motion-Capture Suit

During a tour of the downtown Orlando campus, L.J. learned from students about the FIEA experience and the gaming industry. “The tech industry, our faculty and our students are very aware of today’s social surroundings. The chance to make a difference in L.J.’s world was a no-brainer.” — Ben Noel, FIEA executive director

The challenge of customizing a game in a single day was a joint effort for students and faculty. “My original reaction was that Make-a-Wish opportunities are once in a lifetime. I could never get another chance at this, so I jumped at it.” — Ron Weaver, FIEA production faculty

L.J.’s design input was used to refine the game, which featured him as the main character. "We allowed for as many customized elements as possible, and even rehearsed what it would be like to work with him in real-time. In the end, we created far more than we thought we would, which is a testament to how devoted the project team was to overachieving." — Ron Weaver, FIEA production faculty

Sound technicians recorded the voices of L.J. and his parents to be added to the game. "Seeing all the students working on computers, in the sound studio and using such cool equipment really solidified for him that he wants to go to school for video game design when he grows up." — L.J.'s stepmother

To translate L.J.'s movements into a digital format, staff attached motion-capturing sensors to special garments. "We’ve never helped anyone with special needs in a motion-capture shoot. When he wasn’t zipping around the studio chasing his parents, L.J. was able to see himself performing on the screen." — Brian Salisbury, FIEA art director

"It’s not every day that you hear about video games as a vehicle for a Make-a-Wish kid. The press often prefers to paint [video] games in a more negative light when it comes to children. We were all on board with making this a memorable event for L.J." — Brian Salisbury, FIEA art director

A special camera rig captured 12 angles of L.J.'s face to add realism to his digital character. "For a kid who can’t move around a lot, video games are something fun that he can share with his friends. L.J. loved every part of that day." — L.J.'s stepmother

The FIEA team surprised L.J. with a birthday party, during which he got to play the completed game for the first time. "It was everything we had hoped for and more. They put a serious amount of work into this and we really appreciated that. It was very special." — L.J.'s stepmother

"L.J. was excited to show his friends his game. His school set aside an afternoon where the entire fourth grade got a turn to play and now they want to know when they can buy it. He was really proud to have created something that other people are excited about too." — L.J.'s stepmother