Indie Games Showcase: 17-BIT

As an emerging studio filled with gamers who have a passion for the types of games that most of us grew up with, 17-BIT is a studio that is looking to mesh the old with the new, and revitalize what made classic gaming so powerful. Originally starting out as Haunted Temple Studios in 2009, the studio created the popular Skulls of the Shogun on iOS, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, after founder and CEO Jake Kazdal spent years honing his skills at Zombie, EA and Sega Japan — where he worked under Tetsuya Mizuguchi on the critically acclaimed Rez and Space Channel 5 series.

Fun Facts About 17-BIT

  • Jake was inspired by classic 60’s and ’70s anime he was exposed to while working on Rez at SEGA United Game Artists in Tokyo in the early 2000s. The look of Skulls of the Shogun was based on anime of that era – a similar source of inspiration to Nintendo’s Zelda: Wind Waker.
  • Skulls of the Shogun was largely created while all of the team members were working remotely – first Jake and Borut, then Ben, then Paul. Eventually, Jake and Paul rented a small warehouse space in downtown Seattle, where Colin and Callen quickly joined, and the team grew from there.

17-BIT Games Gallery

Upcoming Game Highlight: Galak-Z: The Dimensional


My first introduction to 17-BITS’ work was while I was attending PAX in 2013 and got to play an early build of Galak-Z: The Dimensional, and it was at that very moment that I knew that I had found something special. Since then I have brought it up from time to time, as it really was a fantastic blend of classic game styling, with enough modern technology to show what the 16-bit era would have been like if it continued to evolve.

But, that enough raving from me, here is what 17-BIT Studio Director Raj Joshi had to say, when we asked him to tell us a bit more about Galak-Z: The Dimensional:

The inspiration behind Galak-Z stems from a love of classic old anime from the 70s through to the 90s. This love naturally translated into a desire to inhabit the fighter pilot that was at the center of so many of these old shows and movies: Macross/Robotech, Voltron, Yamato/Starblazers, Battle of the Planets, to name a few. Jake wanted to translate his favorite aspects of these projects – the tone, the visual presentation – to the interactive world. Galak-Z is patterned after a Saturday morning cartoon, where there’s a clear nemesis, an overall theme or driving force for the protagonists, and an ensemble cast that fulfills the major archetypes familiar to the genre. You’re the lone fighter pilot and sole savior of mother Earth, bringing to interactive life the dream of every kid who grew up watching these shows. 

In terms of gameplay, an addiction to precise controls had this title pinned to a 2D, top-down perspective from the start. However, the dream of flying a spaceship in weightless space pushed us to explore and embrace Newtonian physics, which are at the root of piloting your craft. A love of Halo and Far Cry’s approach to encounter design and AI led us to create highly intelligent (and intellectually differentiated) enemies that keep players on their toes, and to set them in situations that focus on the “30 seconds of fun” approach. 

Finally, our ever-increasing addiction to roguelikes (and rogue-lites) led us to embrace the moment-to-moment fun that we’d been prototyping. We shifted to becoming a rogue-lite with an overarching story, after realizing that being solely narrative-driven wouldn’t highlight the very thing we had grown to love about Galak-Z: its total unpredictability, which makes the game fantastically replayable.

Fun Facts About Galak-Z:

  • The AI has been custom built by the startup Cyntient.
  • Creative & Art Director Jake moved to Kyoto with 7 months left in production on Galak-Z and syncs with the team in the evenings to stay plugged in.

The 17-BIT Team

  • CEO, Creative & Art Director – Jake Kazdal
  • Studio Director – Raj Joshi
  • Lead Engineer – Zach Aikman
  • Lead Animator – Callen Wagner
  • Senior Engineer – Paul Schreiber
  • Cinematics Coordinator & Presentation Artist – Colin Williamson
  • Gameplay Designer/Engineer – Aaron Biddlecom
  • Systems Designer – Brett Cutler
  • Embedded QA and Writing – Brian Van Buren
  • Cyntient (AI Systems) – Michael Gates

Inside the Studio

A huge thanks to Raj Joshi and Jake Kazdal of 17-BIT for providing us with the information found in this feature. You can follow RajJake and 17-BIT on Twitter to stay up to date on GALAK-Z and any future titles they may have coming down the line.