The University of Central Florida’s graduate program, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), has developed a reputation for its project-based approach to teaching students how to make games. On 11 a.m. Pacific on August 3, four groups of students will show off their thesis projects. The event is free to attend on the UCF campus, and it will also be livestreamed on the program’s YouTube page.
The Princeton Review recently ranked FIEA as the No. 3 best graduate school for game design, behind New York University’s Game Center at No. 2 and Southern Methodist University at the top. The program has three tracks focusing on art, production, and programming, with a focus on prepping students to enter the industry upon graduation. In the last seven months, teams of 10 to 20 students work on capstone projects.
FIEA’s alumni page boasts that its graduates have gone on to work at triple-A studios like Bethesda, Blizzard, and Electronic Arts. Previous capstone games have earned awards and nominations, like the narrative platformer Hollowed, which won the Best Visual Quality award at the 2018 Intel University Games Showcase and was up for the Best Student Game category during the 2017 The Game Awards.
Friday’s presentation will feature the sci-fi horror survival game Hyper Vital, the puzzle adventure Scamp: High Hat Havoc, the Western-themed action-platformer Long Arm of the Law, and the psychedelic puzzler Liminal. Each time a batch of graduate students finishes up their thesis projects, FIEA hosts a free event so that they can show off their work.
FIEA’s event is similar to University of Southern California’s USC Games Expo, which broadened its scope this year to include all games created by its students but originally started as a thesis project showcase. These kinds of presentations offer an opportunity for the developers to get some experience pitching their projects as well as show off their hard work — and it’s also a way for folks in the industry to get a glimpse at up-and-coming talent.