Cartoon Animator (CTA) is used by animators and media presenters for a wide range of practical uses, from storytelling to explainer videos. Vincent LoGiudice from Squashed Bug Games is taking Cartoon Animator even further and using it to create a side scrolling console game targeted for home arcade consoles.
Vincent has used Cartoon Animator to create game character animations, along with power-ups like mech suits and in his interview with Reallusion, he talks about…
“I found Cartoon Animator while doing research. I tried the program out and found the user experience to be perfect for what I’d be using it for. Things like cut scenes, character animations and even simple poses. Cartoon Animator allows me to draw the character once, and endlessly animate them. Perfect!”Vincent LoGiudice – Game Developer, Animator
Q: Hi Vincent. Thank you for sharing your project with us. Gaming is such a great opportunity for using Cartoon Animator. When did you come up with the idea of making a console game, and how did you discover Cartoon Animator?
Cartoon Animator has been an instrumental piece to our game Heavy Metal Titans. When I first started Heavy Metal Titans(HMT) in college, I knew I wanted to make a 2D Character/3D Background, linear side scroller game (Metroidvania) like Contra and Metal Slug, since I grew up playing those games in the arcade. I started the project solo and wore all the hats on this project, so I needed a time hack; an excellent tool to boost animation speed, while keeping the game quality maximized.
I found Cartoon Animator while doing research. I tried the program out and found the user experience to be perfect for what I’d be using it for. Things like cut scenes, character animations and even simple poses. Cartoon Animator allows me to draw the character once, and endlessly animate them. Perfect!
Q: You knew you wanted to create your own console game, but how did you settle on the idea of Heavy Metal Titans?
My favorite genre is retro styled games with a modern touch. When creating my own concepts, I am always inspired by older games like Streets of Rage 4. Games with high resolution artwork, high frame and rate smooth graphics. Beyond that, I think I’ve created a bit of an original style of my own.
I played a lot of Metal Slug when I was younger, so when I was brain storming this project; I thought to myself, this game, even though it’s older, is still so impressive and has a lot of re-playability. It was so thoughtfully detailed in quirkiness, art, and comedy. I loved how smoothly it played and required a bit of strategic thinking to be successful, especially with the bosses. You needed to figure out the pattern in which to fight them, and quickly. Bosses I think were one of the coolest aspects of the game with all the individual mechanical moving parts and pieces.
I then thought, how can I make something like this, that can target the newer and older generations gamers while promoting art and 2D animation with 3D backgrounds, because I personally really appreciate 2 dimensional artwork, but can appreciate some depth to the playing field. So I added a 3D background similar to other games in the 90s like Paper Mario.
In addition to Metal Slug, I really love Heavy Metal Music and instantly thought of television cartoon series Metapocalypse; so my art style was really influenced by that show, along with some of the 2D character designs; hence, the game has a lot of metal music (all licensed of course) to keep the vibe very metal.
Q: Has Cartoon Animator made the process of creating characters and game elements easier for you?
It has. Cartoon Animator has streamlined the character creation and 2D animation process greatly. CTA is not the only Reallusion tool I use though! iClone and Character Creator have both also helped me create poses to generate characters, monsters, and other animated props used in Heavy Metal Titans
Cartoon Animator’s ability to streamline workflow, its use of templates, and wide range of animations tools are terrific, but the greatest advantage I can say CTA has is saving time while adding quality to your project.
I use Character Creator to prototype a character, to get their build, clothes; for creatures, I’ll do the same. This specially in my game so I can create poses. I’ll then use those poses with Adobe Photoshop to create my own versions of them, referencing those poses I created in Character Creator. I then make components of these characters and import them into Cartoon Animator.
For some creatures, I use iClone. I did this with our Phoenix boss, and the Cerberos boss. I’ll animate them as needed. Most of the animations that the content creators used for them are already really perfect for what I need them for, so I only make subtle changes for specific things needed. I then render them and import them to Unreal Engine. This is only for place holders though during the design and experimentation phase of my work. Later I will hand draw these creatures and use Cartoon Animator to render them and finally import to Unreal Engine. So I basically use iClone and Character Creator for Proof of Concept during the alpha stage of our game. It’s quick, effective, and allows me to focus on coding the mechanics during development since we’re such a small team.
Q: Having worked with Cartoon Animator now on this project, what features and tools did you find most useful?
I love that I can simply create a new project, import a template character, and replace its components with my own. This process takes me all of 5 minutes tops, and that’s with small tweaks here and there. After that, I can use almost any premade motion as a template and modify it to make it appropriate for the action like shooting, walking with or without a weapon, idle, etc. and change it, making them unique and interesting. Creating and animating a character by hand would takes weeks, if not months, but with Cartoon Animator, it takes me a day or two. This is taking into account that each 2D character design has at least 20 unique animations each.
I can even create animated components for certain bosses/enemies, like having weapons and robot arms/legs separated, so the player can shoot them off as they progress in the battle. It’s super easy and fast to accomplish with Cartoon Animator.
In addition, when I export the animation, it’s simple to export at a specific resolution, which I appreciate, because I need to use a power of 2 due to graphics rendering in Unreal Engine (same goes for other rendering engines but Unreal Engine is my tool of choice).
Q: As someone who took Cartoon Animator and really thought outside the box with it, what advice would you have for anyone looking to get started with CTA?
Jump in head first, it’s a great tool. You’re not going to find anything better, more powerful and affordable. Your return on investment will be very much worth it. I only use it for a small fraction of what it’s capable of and it’s paid off.
Q: So what now? What lies ahead for you in the way of future projects?
In the past I worked on a short Point and Click game called Steve’s Indubitably Awesome Arcade Adventure; however Heavy Metal Titans has far more work put in. I’m very proud of the work we’ve put into HMT and just can’t share it enough; things picked up even faster after I added Chris Williams, my game designer to the team. He’s really added focus to the project and can’t thank him enough for all he’s contributed.
Right now, Heavy Metal Titans is my focal point as it is my most current Cartoon Animator project. It’s been in the works for over a year one of the greatest features in the game, is the work done with CTA.
I’ve thought of other games that can take advantage but it’s really too early to say until I start. Once Heavy Metal Titans is released on all the platforms I’m planning for (iircade, Polycade, Atari VCS, Steam Deck, and Switch) then I’ll have a better idea. The quick answer is Beat Em’ Up games, throwing tribute to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage.