Founder, CEO of 17-BIT, Director/Art Director, Creative Director, Art/Animation, Story
Jake Kazdal is the Swiss Army Knife of 17-BIT. In addition to being the CEO of 17-BIT, he is the creator, director, artist and lead designer of Skulls of the Shogun. Not only did Jake design a good portion of the levels, but he created the final art for all of them. In fact, Jake also did most of the art and animation throughout the game, and created all the characters.
After working on realistic, dark sci-fi concept art for a few years, Jake wanted to work on something different and smaller-scale (and preferably cartoony and goofy), returning to his roots as an animator and character designer.
Before founding 17-BIT (previously Haunted Temple Studios), Jake has worked in the game industry since 1996 as a Texture Artist, Modeler, Animator, Rigger, Level Designer, Production Designer, Concept Artist and Art Director, working in Seattle, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.
His history with video games began in the late 70’s, when his parents couldn’t find a babysitter during busy nights at the family-owned pizzeria. A styrofoam cup full of quarters, a chair to stand, on and an arcade full of the classics would leave him endlessly entertained. Jake worked at Nintendo during high school as a game counselor during the NES era, and played almost every NES game known to man. Jake spent time after that at Irem as a playtester, and then at Enix America as a game counselor during the early SNES days. After art and then animation school, Jake became a game artist interning at Lobotomy Software, and then went into professional work at Boss Game Studios.
Moving to Japan, Jake began working at at Sega of Japan’s RD9/CS4/UGA office for over four years. There he was responsible for Concept Art and Animation for Ulala’s adventures in Space Channel 5 and Space Channel 5 part 2. Concept Art, Modeling and Animation for Rez are still some of his proudest contributions. Unfortunately the world never got to see what the Rez team did next – it never lived long enough to see the light of day, but it was brilliant!
At EA LA, Jake worked as a Concept Artist for Steven Spielberg’s “LMNO” project, developed UI look for Boom Blox, followed by serving as a Concept Artist for Command and Conquer 4. Most recently he was Production Designer and Art Director for Zombie Studios/Ignition Entertainment’s digital-download shooter Blacklight: Tango Down.
Jake studied Animation at the Vancouver Film School’s Classical Animation Program, and Industrial Design and Concept Art at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, as well as at Gnomon Workshop and Concept Design Academy.
Jake’s love of Urban Vinyl Toys, American and Japanese Pop Culture, classic 1960’s anime and 16-bit videogames drive his passion for visual communication and simple-but-deep gameplay. His dream machine would be an HD Super Famicom existing purely on digitally downloaded kick-ass 2D games!
Games Jake has shipped include Spider: The Videogame, Twisted Edge Snowboarding, World Rally Championship, Space Channel 5, Space Channel 5 part 2, Rez, Astro Boy, Boom Blox, Command and Conquer 4, and Blacklight: Tango Down.
Favorite games/series include Advance Wars series, Zelda series, Pixeljunk series, Shining Force series, and Plants vs. Zombies.
Lead Engineer, Designer
Borut built the core of the engine & tools used in the game (on top of XNA). He’s responsible for the AI, user interface, and all the networking code. He designed a number of campaign maps and in general is the guy who makes sure all the gameplay systems play nice together.
Before working with 17-BIT, Borut worked at Radical, Sony Online, and EA, as well as his own startup, White Knuckle Games, back in 2001. After leaving EA in 2009, Borut formed his own company, Plush Apocalypse Productions, and eventually decided to partner with Jake and 17-BIT in order to make Skulls of the Shogun.
In addition, he’s written about game programming, design, and business, in books like the Game Programming Gems series, Secrets of the Game Business, and industry websites like Gamasutra. He also taught technical game design at the Vancouver Film School.
Games Borut has shipped include Scarface: The World is Yours, and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom.
Favorite games/series: Toejam & Earl, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Zelda, Advance Wars
Engineer, Designer, Lead Writer
Ben Vance is a designer, programmer, and writer on Skulls of the Shogun. In addition to building tech, gameplay, and optimizing, he designed visual effects, in-game feedback, and campaign maps. He also designed and scripted most of the campaign cutscenes and tutorials.
Ben was starting his company, Buffalo Vision, and itching to collaborate with a small team on something unique when he saw a gridless Skulls prototype and Jake’s early character designs. This inspired him to join the Skulls of the Shogun team and help infuse turn-based strategy with arcade, action, and adventure vibes. As a (sometimes) impatient gamer, Ben believed that Skulls could bring a truly inclusive genre to new players with sharp style, a tongue-in-cheek attitude, and quick pacing.
Skulls of the Shogun’s completion marks Ben’s 10th year of industry work, which includes traveling to studios to help with both small-scale and AAA titles, as well as programming and protoyping at Electronic Arts.
Ben has shipped Medal of Honor: Airborne and developed tech and gameplay for multiple unseen projects, including Doug Church and Steven Spielberg’s “LMNO.”
Favorite games: 720º, Galaga, Ico, Quest for Glory, Space Funeral, Spelunky, Windosil, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.