Michael Benda MSc

Contact Email: michael[dot]benda [at]zeppelinstudio[dot]net Twitter // LinkedIn About The most fascinating aspect of making games is the multitude of areas that get poured into a single piece of harmonizing work. Roughly speaking, the media “computer game” encompasses music, narrative, visuals, and computer science and turns all this into an interactive experience for the players. My favourite part in this? Right in the middle linking the diverse resorts as producer. When…

Michael Benda

Contact

Email: michael[dot]benda [at]zeppelinstudio[dot]net
Twitter // LinkedIn

About

The most fascinating aspect of making games is the multitude of areas that get poured into a single piece of harmonizing work. Roughly speaking, the media “computer game” encompasses music, narrative, visuals, and computer science and turns all this into an interactive experience for the players. My favourite part in this? Right in the middle linking the diverse resorts as producer.
When I am asked about my occupation I often say “I am the maker of coffee”. Although this is meant to put a smile on the interviewer’s face, there is a lot of truth in it: The main task of a producer is the encouragement and mediation of communication within the team – and having a cup of coffee together helps a lot.

Qualifications

Production

From 2011 until its release in 2014 I was producer for Zeppelin Studio’s Schein. Apart from juggling charts and schedules in MS Project and Excel this meant mediating a diverse team of five to ten people, managing relations with external companies, encouraging regular exchange, leading daily communication in personal meetings or through Skype or Google Hangouts and keeping the spirits high.
Project management

Game design

The main focus in the design process of Schein in 2011 was to weave the game around a simple mechanic. Starting from there we left out features that only served as fillers instead of actively increasing the game’s fun. The result: No sophisticated physics, no enemies blocking the way, just the player, the swamp and the magic light. Since then the game design document was kept up to date throughout upgrades, changes, and players’ feedback and served as a great companion up to release.
Game design

Programming

Coming from a study program with strong technical emphasis programming was my focus for many years. I started off with Java development, learned C++ and OpenGL by making games for both PC and mobile, and finally topped it off with the collaboration on the in-house engine for Schein built in C++ and DirectX.
Programming

Level design

Starting with paper prototyping, followed by prototypes built out of LEGO® (as further described here), further transferring everything into the level editor and finally polishing it with testers’ feedback – this was my job as sole level designer for Schein. The puzzles and challenges I created are the highly praised core of the game: “It’s thoughtful, well written and acted and provides new challenge regularly.” – Rock Paper Shotgun
Level design

Tools and scripting

Tools tend to make our life a lot easier. Thus I created multiple scripts and tools that simplified asset pipeline processes for the development of Schein. These ranged from MEL scripts for Autodesk Maya, such as the level editor or model exporter, to tools for the game engine itself built in C++ or even Windows batch scripts.
Tools and scripting

Rigging and animating

After the 3D artist finished the models for Schein it was my job to build appropriate rigs and finally to breathe life into them by creating their animations. This ranged from the main protagonist, the young father, to monstrous swamp insects, malicious tentacle beasts and shape-shifting snakes.
Rigging and animating

Working Experience

2013 – present CEO Zeppelin Studio OG, Vienna Management, Production
2011 – 2013 Schein Project, Vienna Project Management, Level Design
2007 – 2009 Bartosek Projektbetreuung GmbH, Vienna Head of IT department

Education

2010 – 2014 University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien MA Game Engineering and Simulation
2012 Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea Exchange semester
2006 – 2010 Technical University of Vienna BA Media Informatics
2002 – 2006 Sir-Karl-Popper-Schule Vienna Matura

Technical Qualifications

Programming C++, DirectX, HLSL, Java, C#, OpenMP, OpenGL 2.1, Matlab, MEL
Development Visual Studio, TFS, Unity, Eclipse
Applications Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Maya, Microsoft Office

Languages

German Native language
Slovak Second native language
English Full professional proficiency
French Limited working proficiency
Danish Elementary proficiency

Awards

2014 Nominee, German Developer Award – Innovation Award / Schein
2014 Winner, Content Award 2014 – Category: Games / Schein
2014 Nominee, futurezone Award 2014 – Category: Games / Schein
2014 Nominee, Game Connection Europe 2014 – Development Awards / Schein
2013 Winner, Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013 – Game Competition / Schein
2013 Winner, German Developer Award – Newcomer Award / Schein
2013 Finalist, Subotron Livepitch / Schein
2012 Finalist, Subotron Pioneers-Festival Livepitch / Schein
2012 Award of Excellence 2012 – FH Technikum Wien: special honor for Schein

Projects

2015 Educational strategy game for mobile platforms at Zeppelin Studio (in development)
Producer, game designer and developer. A fun, educational game for children from 10 to 18 years, built in Unity.
2011 – 2014 Schein, a 2D puzzle platformer for Windows, published on Steam by Zeppelin Studio
Producer, game designer, level designer, programmer, animator, distribution manager. The award winning game was built on an in-house engine based on C++ and DirectX. More: scheingame.com
2011 – 2014 3D/2D in-house engine for Zeppelin Studio
Based on C++ and DirectX 9 for Microsoft Windows. Utilizes FMOD as sound system. Includes a level editor for Autodesk Maya scripted in MEL.
2010 – 2012 Game development projects at Technikum Wien
Including game prototyping in Unity and CryEngine, mobile applications in J2ME, Flash game development and game and level design in Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet level editor for the project “LittleBigPile”.
2010 – 2012 3D DirectX effects demo at Technikum Wien
Demo including lighting, shadow volumes, transparency, normal mapping and displacement mapping using C++, DirectX 9 and HLSL.
2010 – 2011 Application of AI algorithms at Technikum Wien
Implementation of minimax, A* pathfinding, evolution strategies, genetic algorithms and neural networks.
2009 – 2010 Bachelor project “Multitouch Whiteboard” at the Institute for Design & Assessment of Technology, Vienna University of Technology
Head of project team to conceptualize and implement a virtual multi-touch whiteboard for online conferences via Adobe Acrobat Connect developed in Action Script 3.0.
2009 – 2010 Visualization of medical data and flow visualization at Vienna University of Technology
OpenGL based software for visualization of CT data and wind channel data.
More: Medical data (Winner of Vis-Contest 2009/2010)
More: Flow data
2008 – 2010 Game development projects at Vienna University of Technology
3D platformer in C++ and OpenGL 2.1 for Windows PC. More information here
2D platformer in Java and OpenGL ES for Android mobile devices. More information here
2005 – 2006 Mentoring of freshmen students at Sir-Karl-Popper-Schule
Educational and social support, weekly meetings with self-conducted social relations interaction games throughout the freshmen’s first year at the Sir-Karl-Popper-Schule.
2003 – 2010 Independent film studio project “Cow Studios”, Co-director, editor and scriptwriter
Works include four short movies and a 90 minute action movie.
2002 – 2006 Website administration at Sir-Karl-Popper-Schule
Head of the conceptual design team (2004 – 2006) and overall technical responsibility, maintenance and development of the website www.popperschule.at.
2002 – 2005 International Comenius Socrates Projects “LeGel”
Design director and content manager of interdisciplinary student-run website, interlinking scientific, philosophical and artistic educative media on “Perception – The window to aesthetics” (2004-2005) and “Water” (2002-2003) in collaboration with schools in Bratislava, Budapest, and Würzburg.