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Spreed Brawl

Ahead of the game: Alumni-run studios awarded funding for original projects

August 23, 2016

Sheridan grads are behind three studios that were awarded financing from the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) this month for their innovative interactive digital projects: Double Stallion Games, co-founded by Eric Angelillo (Animation, 2010) for #SpeedBrawl; Guru Studio founded by Frank Falcone (Animation, 1992; Art & Art History, 1991), for Midnight; and Secret Location, co-founded by Ryan Andal (Interactive Multimedia, 2005) and Pietro Gagliano (Bachelor of Design, 2006) for Wacken VR.

For Angelillo, the funding nod is just the latest in a string of successes for the game design company he started in 2013, just three years after leaving Sheridan.

Angelillo graduated from Sheridan’s animation program amid a huge transformation in the world of video games. “It was the rise of the indies. The game industry was growing; it felt creative and fresh,” recalls the 2010 alumnus. As an added incentive to enter the industry, Angelillo was living in Montreal, the third largest hub for video game jobs in the world at the time.

Angelillo was soon honing his skills at several large game studios including Ubisoft, Gameloft and Electronic Arts. However, he became disenchanted with the lack of control on projects and began searching for a fresh start. “I thought of changing careers entirely until I met three engineers that wanted to start a game studio. We met up one weekend and prototyped a game to see if we worked well together.” Clearly, the answer was yes and Double Stallion Games was born.

Today, the Montreal studio has two successful original games under its belt and recently won a second round of financing from the Canadian Media Fund for its latest project, a speed-based combat game called #SpeedBrawl.

There are several explanations for Double Stallion’s success, says Angelillo, but a commitment to traditional high-quality animation is the main reason. “What is unique about our games is that they feature fully hand-drawn HD animation. Most games' graphics are either 3D, 2D cut out or pixel art. We strive to make our games look like interactive 2D animated shows and players immediately recognize that.”

Production companies also recognize it. Double Stallion’s work caught the attention of Cartoon Network, which partnered with the studio to produce OK KO! Lakewood Plaza Turbo! This second game from Double Stallion quickly reached the best new games chart on the Apple and Google App stores in early 2016. The success comes on the heels of Double Stallion’s first game, Big Action Mega Fight!, which netted the Best Game Audio Award from the USA 2014 Indie Prize Showcase. Plans have since ramped up for Speed Brawl, which the studio plans to release in early access on Steam (PC) in spring 2017.

Angelillo and the seven-person team are proud of their track record, but they never lose sight of the challenges that lie ahead, especially given the competitive forces at work in the video game market. “As creatives, we are tempted to just emulate what we like or what was successful, but it's important to push the bar higher and really deliver on a unique concept if we expect people to want to play our games,” Angelillo says. “The game industry grows at such an alarming rate that you need to constantly be on your toes. One week free-to-play mobile games are taking over and the next it's virtual reality games. Plus, there are so many developers now that it's especially important to be original to stand out in the market.”

Yet, even the best products and most talented people need to promote themselves and be true to their passions and career goals to enjoy real success and happiness. Angelillo credits Sheridan professor Mark Mayerson with imparting this lesson. “Mark always emphasized the role of business within animation. In the end, we are all working in an industry and we need to market ourselves properly and find our own path.”

Follow: @dblstallion

Learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Animation

OK KO!Angelillo
Image from Double Stallion’s OK KO! Lakewood Plaza Turbo!