One character in the upcoming "Total War: Rome II" video game has special significance for the developers at Creative Assembly. The character is modeled after a young man named James, who recently died of liver cancer, and inspired the video game developers with his kindness and bravery.
James was 24 when he visited Creative Assembly, a game development company in West Sussex, England, last summer. The visit was arranged by the Willow Foundation..
"It's very rare that we open the doors to the studio, as we're often working on unannounced projects," Craig Laycock, the Creative Assembly's community manager of "Total War," told ABC News. "But when the email came through from the Willow Foundation, Rob, the Total War brand director, was really touched by James' plight and asked if we (myself and colleague Will Overgard) would mind organizing a tour. I lost my father to cancer at a young age, so it was a cause I was really behind and something we really wanted to make happen."
Laycock recently took to the Creative Assembly website to post about James' visit, including the impact it had on him and the rest of the development team. "He asked passionate questions, and offered clear and concise suggestions on features for the game," Laycock wrote. "He was kind in his approach and brave beyond words – and after just a few hours of spending time with him and his brother, he'd had a huge impact on me."
That impact now lives on in the company's latest game, thanks to a character modeler who came up with the idea to design a character in memory of James.
"The modeling team sometimes use reference photos to help construct characters, but we've never taken someone and imported them into the game wholesale. Mauro, the character artist who offered to do the model, has done an amazing job – it's such an accurate likeness, right down to the measurements," Laycock told ABC News.
The Willow Foundation is "a bit like the Make-A-Wish Foundation," Jenny Davies, a spokeswoman for the foundation, told ABC News. "To date, Williow has provided more than 9,000 special days for young adults living with life-threatening conditions, including cancer, motor neurone disease, cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease.
"Although we organize lots of similar special days [to James'] -- theme park trips, breaks to London, family breaks, spa breaks, people can choose whatever they would like to do," Davies explained. "This could be meeting a celebrity, recording music or something like James' wanted to do -- visit a gaming studio."
Davies said the Willow Foundation works with people between the ages of 16 to 40. "We're the only U.K. charity to support this age group," she said.
James died shortly after his visit to Creative Assembly. "It was a hard bit of news to take back at the studio, as his zest and passion for games really came across on that day, and a lot of the team had got to know him, albeit for a short time," Laycock said.
The creators haven't finalized how James' character will be featured in the game yet, but the team is "determined to make it a fitting tribute to him." "Total War: Rome II" is scheduled for release sometime this year.