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Industry & Tech Students & Alumni

FIEA Alumni Awarded Patent

May 11, 2022

Victor Lugo cannot say much about a patent application he and four others recently submitted – and were awarded – on behalf of Universal Studios, however…
Male alumni headshot, Victor Lugo

“Making people happy is why I’m in entertainment in the first place.”
— Victor Lugo

A peek at the application, shows that the FIEA 2008 cohort 4 grad’s team is seeking a way to keep score on rides at the theme park giant that require guests to fire water guns at targets.

Think sensors embedded within water streams to signal a specific visitor’s hit targets. The next-level thinking is something Lugo’s company enables.

“This company does a good job of empowering people to invent things,” he said. “That patent was something where I targeted taking moments I thought were really fun and making it more real.”

It’s an approach Lugo has brought throughout a career that has made stops at Walt Disney World, Electronic Arts and other tech leaders in Central Florida.

We caught up with Lugo to ask about his time in Orlando and how FIEA has helped pave his path.

How important was the support of Universal Studios – or any company, for that matter – in your patent application?

It’s a great thing for the employee and it helps them feel supported. It’s also another way to recognize them for their hard work. It’s awesome.

Where did the idea come from?

I consider myself a creative technologist. You shouldn’t be intimidated. The reality is a lot of ideas come from anywhere and you don’t know the specific recipe and combination of technology is or isn’t patentable. Nobody has the “God mode” view of earth that allows you to know if your idea has potential.

You have had a great career and part of it meant spending time with John Madden, who passed away last year. What was that like?

It was always a way to understand what Coach Madden was like and an effort to keep the relationship close. But it was also a great opportunity to ask questions and understand what an elite coach thought. It was a fantastic perk of the job.

How has Central Florida and Orlando contributed to your career path?

It’s really allowed me to grow. There is a lot going on, ranging from theme parks to several large game studios that exist here. There are a lot of intertwining things happening here that we can take advantage of.

What is one lesson you took from your time at FIEA?

For me, it was an opportunity to learn about game design and production and how to best give fans what they want. Coming into it, I might have had preconceived notions about what was best for fans. But I learned at EA how to value features and give them what they wanted. It definitely improved my ability to design and produce games. I learned the value of metrics, data and how to understand the guest experience.

You started at University of Miami. What did you learn when you attended FIEA post-grad?

From what I knew, you needed to become a good programmer and then they let you design a game. But FIEA came around to say, “Look, there is a path where you can just be a producer in a bunch of different disciplines.” I came into the program with a computer engineering degree to be a game designer and producer. But I was able to take programming classes and liked the flexible schedule that was project based. I worked on Toy Story Mania! and other projects while at FIEA. I’d work on some attractions, drive to FIEA and by noon, I was doing coursework.

Do you like to experience the rides or games you build?

I’m not one who typically plays my experience a ton once it ships but I do love going back to play them with friends and getting on rides I have worked on. It’s extremely rewarding. I like to tell my friends all the tricks while I run up the scores.

How else did FIEA prepare you for your awesome career?

FIEA prepares you for the different ways companies do things. When you understand process and how to get things done, it gives you flexibility to recognize what can be done better. If I’m working on your company’s project, I’m here to make things better. Here (at Universal Studios), I make things better for guests and fans.

What piece of advice would you give students at FIEA now?

If you have the time to sit in the tracks that exist, I would recommend to sit in at least one of the other tracks so that you understand how they work. It’s important. It’s great to have a level of versatility and a lexicon that allows you to speak to them in a relatable way. While at FIEA, that opportunity is there. No one will stop you from going to those different classes. Speaking the language is a valuable skill.

What is it about building an interactive experience that energizes you?

I remember the smiles on the faces as we tested EA’s mixed martial arts game or on the Toy Story experience. It’s that first time you get to present your creative vision to guests. It’s super rewarding and cool. It energizes me and gives me direction on how to improve it to them, which is what I enjoy about my job, in general. Making people happy is why I’m in entertainment in the first place.

You have mad respect for “story” in experiences. Why?

Story is everything. I like to be more detailed about how I define a story. I like to approach interactive by saying, “What’s the fantasy? What can I give them by allowing them to interact with this ride?” That’s always how I approach it. I need to know what people will want to do because they compromise on that the least. You need to have a feeling of what they want to do otherwise they are not going to necessarily be satisfied.

Article written by: Marco Santana