A dozen future game developers were welcomed today as the inaugural class of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at the University of Central Florida began school in a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Orlando.
The students will earn accredited master's degrees in interactive entertainment at the end of the 16-month program, which will prepare them to be producers, artists and programmers in the video-game industry.
"I'm excited about the group of students we've got here," Executive Director Ben Noel said. "They all bring an abundance of talent and a passion for games that I think will make them leaders in the industry."
FIEA's master's degree in interactive entertainment offers intensive, project-based courses set in a building that mimics the production environments of successful gaming studios. The students will work together in cohort teams on projects meant to replicate the various stages of video-game production. They will focus on one of five specializations: 3-D modeling, animation and motion, technical artistry, software development and production management. Faculty members include UCF professors and former video-game professionals from Electronic Arts, Disney and Microsoft Games.
Students can enroll in FIEA in the fall and spring, and the enrollment is expected to reach about 100 students. Students who have a passion for gaming and strong portfolios in areas such as computer modeling, programming and animation are well-suited for FIEA.
FIEA was created from a unique partnership between UCF, the state of Florida and Electronic Arts. The program got its start in May 2004, when the Florida Legislature provided $4.2 million in start-up funding. Electronic Arts helped with the formation of the academy and in the development of the curriculum.
The opening of FIEA in the former Expo Centre building, located on Livingston Street across from the TD Waterhouse Centre, also represents a significant step in the city of Orlando's efforts to redevelop downtown. The city leased the building to UCF in fall 2004, and the city and university spent $6 million to overhaul the building and to create classrooms and high-tech student work areas. The Expo Centre also houses other UCF School of Film and Digital Media programs.
The 12 students in the inaugural FIEA class are Jon Albertson of Winter Park; Carlos Barbosa of Orlando; Colleen Cleveland of Valrico; Rich Grula of Orlando; Tim Metzler of Brewster, Kan.; Brandon Plagemann of Verona, Wis.; Matt Read of Winter Springs; Jeff Riggall of Homer, N.Y.; Rob Simon of Daytona Beach Shores; Chris Smith of Dothan, Ala.; David Verble of Ponte Vedra Beach; and Adam Volker-Yoblick of Gainesville.