Powered by LootLocker: The brother-sister team that took two awards at Together Jam

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Alexander Bergendahl6 min read
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Vertigod Games took home both the second place and ‘best animation’ awards at Together Jam. In the second of this three-part blog series, we hear the story behind their Cuphead-inspired game: Felix the Cat and his Wonderful Clones.

Jamming together with games based on classic TV and movies

If you’ve read our first blog in this series, you’ll know that Together Jam was a summer 2022 game jam, created by Game Jolt, LootLocker and G4, and supported by NBCUniversal.

The event was a huge success, with nearly 100 entries from indie developers in 24 different countries. Picking the winners was difficult because the standard was so high.

The theme was ‘power in numbers’, and each developer had to make a game based on one (or more) of five iconic IPs, generously made available by the kind folks at NBCUniversal:

  • Knight Rider
  • Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Airwolf
  • Tremors
  • Felix the Cat

In our last blog post, we got to know the creators of Xena: Trial of the Gods – the game that took first prize. So now let’s look at the game that took the runners up and the ‘best animation’ award: Felix the Cat and his Wonderful Clones.

It’s a side-scrolling, rapid-shooting platformer, whose music and visuals effectively evoke the 2D, hand-drawn style of 1930s animation. As the game progresses, you recruit more clones of Felix, with different abilities – allowing you to switch back and forth between them. As well as loving the game’s animation, the judges were impressed by how this mechanic played into the theme of ‘power in numbers’.

So if you’ve played the game, or even just seen the trailer, you might assume it was made by an experienced developer with a long-time love of Cuphead. If so, prepare to be surprised and impressed. Oh - and make sure you keep an eye out for the update to the game which we've been told is coming soon and includes new levels and gameplay improvements.

Award-winning after just one year

Vertigod Games is a brother-sister team from the Philippines. Their two members are:

  • Melvin Escarlan (Vin), 25 years old, lead designer and developer
  • Jouana Escarlan, 21 years old, co-creator and animator

Before entering Together Jam, the Vertigod duo had been making games for, respectively: one year and zero years. (Yes, really.) We’ll let Vin and Jouana explain:

“I started learning game design and development 12 months ago,” says Vin. “I learned from reading Unity documentations, eBooks, watching YouTube tutorials, lots of practice and dummy projects. My first game was a very simple 2D pixel-art, endless game about a UFO shooter, built with GameMaker 2. The game didn't even land on the Top 300 finalists of the first game jam I entered.”

As for Jouana, she entered together Jam with no development experience at all. “I’ve been fond of writing and drawing since I was a child,” Jouana says, “which I learned, is very useful in game design. When my brother asked me to join him in this jam, I had zero idea of how to develop a game – my line of education is focused on accounting. So my brother taught me some aspects of game development that he knew about. He also encouraged me to continue pursuing my dream of having a job related to multimedia arts and writing.”

Although Vin hasn’t long been making games himself, he’s spent plenty of time playing them. “I've been playing lots of games since I was a kid,” he says, “from Contra and Mario, to Bioshock, Call of Duty, Dishonored, DOTA and many more. Being a gamer helped me a lot with understanding what a game needs, and what aspects make the game fun and rewarding.”

But prior to entering Together Jam, there was one game that Vin was surprisingly unaware of – he’d never played Cuphead.

A whirlwind tour of inspirations

Vin and Jouana completed their game in just 14 days. That’s pretty impressive. But it’s even more remarkable when you consider the research they had to do. The five different IPs we chose for the Together Jam challenge are well known in the Western world. But in the Philippines? Not so much.

“I did a lot of research on the shows presented,” says Vin. “Since the IPs are not really well-known here in the Philippines (not being played on major TV channels). I chose the one that was the most iconic and exciting for me to build, which is Felix the Cat. I watched all the episodes and movies available on YouTube to really get to know the character.”

“As I was researching more about Felix the Cat and similar cartoon shows, I learned about Cuphead, which blew me away. The hand-drawn animation, the style and the gameplay were so amazing – it was impossible to not be inspired by it. Aside from Cuphead, I took inspiration from shows and games like One Piece, Hollow Knight, Castlevania and Rick & Morty.”

“When I first saw the game jam, I’d already decided to make a 2D platformer game inspired by Hollow Knight – but more based on avoiding obstacles, traps, solving puzzles and stuff like that. I interpreted the ‘power in numbers’ theme as: ‘no man is an island’.”

Using Lootlocker to make scores matter

We were delighted to see how many Together Jam entrants used LootLocker in their game development. Vertigod was one of those.

“We used the LootLocker leaderboard,” Vin said, “but I’ve also added pagination so players can view more than ten high scores. It also displays the public UID of members, where we also generate unique IDs for each player. This means no two members have the same ID.”

“This all took me two days, since I was also designing and making sure the UI is easy for the players to understand and use. LootLocker was easy for me to use, especially since I'm used to working with web APIs – I have over six years of experience working as a full time website designer.”

When asked if he’d use LootLocker again, Vin replied “definitely!”.

Get your games finished faster with LootLocker

When time is precious (like developing for a game jam), you need to devote as much time as possible to the creative elements of your game. Lootlocker helps you do just that.

Our SDK gives you everything you need to easily create leaderboards, progression systems, cosmetics, consumables, and plenty more. But it’s not just for small teams whipping up cool indie games – LootLocker works straight out of the box for games of any size, genre, engine or platform.

If you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them. Just get in touch.

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